PDN Photo of the Day

Laura McPhee’s Delicate India

Three shows in New York this fall feature photographs of India by visitors to that country–at the Rubin Museum, “Steve McCurry: India” opens November 18; “Patrick Faigenbaum: Kolkata/Calcutta” closes November 7 at Aperture; and Laura McPhee’s subtle photographs, made mostly in the same Bengali city where Faigenbaum worked, are on view in “The Home and the World,” at Benrubi Gallery until December 18. Where McCurry and Faigenbaum savor India’s street life and bright color, McPhee’s photos are quieter, full of pale light and attention to crumbling stone and delicate pattern, whether in a net strung with fresh flowers, or the pastel palette of exposed brick and ornate plaster. Published in a book from Yale University Press last year, McPhee’s pictures are “less an overview of this city of 15 million than a few frank glimpses into its complex, often conflicted soul.”

A statement from the show describes the small-scale conflicts that McPhee records, often between time and place, “in the war of attrition between nature and the built environment (vines shrouding statues and columns, stones sieving rusty earth, clouds saturated with smoke and exhaust); in the eclectic mix of culture and class (Hindu and Moslem, Asian and European, palace and tenement, antique and modern); but above all in the hoard of color and display and the pervasive sense that so much attention to surface must be concealing something. Elaborate Victorian and Mughal patterns, an end to themselves in other contexts, are here backdrops to the endless patterns-of-no-pattern arising from the recursive iteration of object and ornament—silks, flowers, paintings, tiles, or just trash—which call to mind both handicraft and factory. The effect, like the city itself, resists reduction, but insists on being experienced in its diversity.”

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