Delhi’s Just Another Photo Festival wants to prove that it’s different from the rest

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While Martin Parr describes photography as “the most accessible, democratic medium available in the world”, the industry that has built up around it has not always followed suit. Often confining itself to intimidating, inaccessible museums, galleries and organisations, photography as an art form doesn’t always interact with the public at large.

A new Indian festival, Just Another Photo Festival wants to remedy this, aiming to “democratise photography across the country.” The initiative of photographer Poulomi Basu, Emaho Magazine founder Manik Katyal and British independent filmmaker CJ Clarke, the New Delhi festival will be showcasing 150 photographers from over 35 countries. Work from the likes of Roger Ballen, Philip Toledano and Sim Chi Yin will be displayed in 11 different locations.

This guiding idea of expanding the base of photography lovers is being put into action by bringing photography to open, public spaces including malls, universities and even slums. “We’re showing it at a school in a slum,” Katyal says. “They’ve told me they would never imagined that they would get to enjoy photography in this space. We’re taking photography to them, rather than inviting them to some gallery opening with wine and cheese.”

As Basu explains, the festival’s emphasis is unabashedly audience-first: “With JAPF we saw an opportunity to do something different, to change the paradigm and put the audience on a pedestal, not the photographer.” Clarke, who splits his time between the UK and India adds, “the festival will be a continually evolving process, we will continue to learn and adapt to ensure that we reach audiences who cannot readily access such work.”

Fair representation of the photographic community is also a priority for the festival, and JAPF want to ensure female photographers make up a significant proportion of the work shown. “We have achieved widespread support from many high profile women photographers; for instance Anastasia Taylor-Lind, Laura Boushank in partnership with Rawiya, their all-women photo collective and Foto Feminas, which represents Latin American women photographers,” Basu says.

The likes of The Photographer’s Gallery director Brett Rogers OBE and French curator Christian Caujolle have noted the shifting centre of photography, away from Europe and America towards the (rapidly) developing world. This hasn’t gone unnoticed by the festival either, showcasing thoughtful work coming out of Africa and Latin America.

“We want JAPF to be global in perspective and have strived to include  diverse work, such as those from places such as Somaliland, Uganda, Rwanda and Ethiopia. To show perspectives on Africa, which may be new to an Indian audience,” Basu says.

The growth of India’s professionalised middle classes clashes with the entrenched inequality that has proved hard to shift and so it makes sense that for Katyal, the educational aspect of photography is perhaps its most profound function.

“As a curator I get to see these fantastic projects from all over the world. You get to learn about different nationalities, new topographies, underreported situations. I’ve moved from Delhi to a small village in the Himalayas and at some point I would love to take an edition there. There’s one small market and after 7pm, everything shuts.

“Imagine how kids [from the village] who have an urge to learn more about the world would react to these photography projects? That’s what we want to achieve.”

Just Another Photo Festival runs from the 25th to the 30th September in venues around New Delhi. Find more information here.

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