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Agence VU - Mahesh Shantaram
Mahesh Shantaram

Member of the Agence VU’ since 2017, he is an Indian photographer based in Bangalore, India.

Mahesh Shantarem has graduated in Computer Electronics but quickly offset his error of working as an engineer to study photography in Paris. He is established in Bangalore as a photographer since 2006.

He has first developed his critical vision while working for weddings. He sees both his press requirements and more personal works as an opportunity to develop his own approach to describing India’s complex social system. Using sometimes acute humour, Mahesh Shantaram shows both India’s hopes and inner mechanisms and has taken weddings and political culture as his favourite themes. Using colour as his principal tool, his work is always a critical approach to what seems to be caricatures.

In 2015, the British Journal of Photography has identified Mahesh Shantaram as a “One to Watch”. His works are regularly exhibited in international festivals (the World Photography Festival in the United Kingdom, Photoquai in France, PhotoPhnomPehn in Cambodia, Unseen Photo Fair in the Netherlands, GextoPhoto in Spain, the Addis Photo Festival in Ethiopia, the Chobi Mela Festival of Photography in Bangladesh and Photo Katmandou in Nepal).


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Series

Amazon, conquering India (2018)

With its steady growth and 1.3 billion people, making it the second most populated country in the world, India is the next significant location for Amazon to establish itself. It would represent a market worth a trillion dollars. According to US CEO Jeff Bezos, India will be Amazon's second largest market after the US within a decade. Amazon made $178 billion in sales in 2017 and became the second private company to exceed the astronomical threshold of $1 trillion in capitalization in 2018. In 2013, the Internet giant opened its website in India. From a team of a few Indian engineers returning from Seattle to Mumbai, the online seller now has more than 50 processing centers in the...

Guinean constellation (2018)

On the occasion of the 60th anniversary of Guinea's independence, Mahesh Shantaram, commissioned by the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), went to Conakry. The port capital of Guinea, an economic and political center, has a population of nearly two million. Free of prejudice, Shantaram walks the streets of Conakry and photographs football players, young lovers, or a fashion designer as he wanders. The city becomes a meeting place where the inhabitants of the capital form, in the photographer’s eyes, the contemporary “Guinean constellation” of which he photographs some “stars”. This work is published in the book Mémoire collective. Une histoire plurielle des violences...

Racism in India: the africain portraits (extract) (2018)

Racism In India : the African Portraits « Anywhere in the world, it takes a black person to teach us what racism really means. » On January 31st, 2016, Bangalore woke up to yet another news of a shocking mob attack against a Tanzanian student. This particular one was appalling enough to earn international press interest for the first time. In a widely televised debate that followed, one of the more vocal participants kept repeating that this is an aberration in a country that is normally welcoming of all people. This 'aberration' is what Africans suffer as everyday racism. Since the incident, Mahesh Shantaram has been going out to the far-flung neighbourhoods of Bangalore and...

Matrimania (extract) (2017)

"Everything that’s great about our country and everything that’s wrong with it can be summarised in a single wedding. In India, my dominant identity used to be that of a wedding photographer. You know, the one who eats, shoots, and leaves. Over time, my role transcended from meeting the expectations of that genre to documenting contemporary Indian culture. I enjoy a ringside view into the theatre of society. Young men and women on their Big Day assume the role of prince and princess in a bollywood fantasy. On the periphery, a multitude of workers facilitate the creation of Disneyland-like sets, entertain audiences, cater to the needs of thousands of guests, and generally keep the...

Gindi Tel Aviv Fashion Week (2017)

Mahesh Shantaram attended the 5th edition of Fashion Week in Tel Aviv in 2017. It is not the podiums that have been highlighted in this series, but the effervescence and the general atmosphere that reign backstage.

Last Days of Manmohan (2016)

As a direct fallout of events since 2010, the whole of India was galvanised to come out and vote in record numbers. These were the most significant general elections in a long while. With so much at stake, it came to a point where it became impossible to trust what was being said in the highly-compromised news media. Journalists and their employers were widely believed to be flexible with the truth and working for political parties, sometimes overtly. With this scenario prevailing, Mahesh Shantaram decided to go « backpacking » across the country on a « political sightseeing trip » to create evidence of what Indian politics really looked and felt like. He bluffed his way into the inner...

Books

Mémoire collective. Une histoire plurielle des violences politiques en Guinée

This book is a contribution to the assembly of the Guinean historical puzzle. A collective work that invites us to go beyond the fault lines of the 20th century. Guinean, French and American authors have combined their efforts to gather elements of the history of political violence in Guinea. They come from a variety of backgrounds: academics, human rights defenders (FIDH, OGDH), journalists (RFI) and bring complementary perspectives to this research. Their texts are accompanied by the work of the Indian photographer Mahesh Shantaram from VU agency and the illustrations of the Congolese illustrator KHP. A plural narrative that proves at least one thing: when silence breaks, memories stop being locked up and memory becomes collective, writing history becomes possible.
Text by: Collectif

Publisher: FIDH (2018)
354 pages  

Matrimania

Mahesh Shantaram explores the problematic underpinnings of Indian weddings

All that is great about a country and all that is wrong with it can be summarised by a single wedding, says Indian photographer Mahesh Shantaram and member of Agence VU. In his documentary work, he mostly studies the complex societal system of his home country. Working as a wedding photographer, he had privileged access to a cross-section of celebrations of the Indian upper- and middle-class society. Young adults assume the role of princes and princesses in a Bollywood-like fantasy often choreographed by their parents. On the periphery, a multitude of workers entertain crowds, cater to thousands of guests, and keep the show going on for days. Using images culled from over 150 weddings and created in the course of six years, the photo series Matrimania constructs a fictional narrative—an alternative wedding album—that depicts one long wedding night in India. Matrimania is a personal take on 21st century India’s contradictions seen through the prism of its wedding culture.
Text by: Mahesh Shantaram et Gita Aravamudan

Publisher: Hatje Cantz (2018)
112 pages
Size: 23 x 28 cm  

Awards


    2018 - Alkazi Foundation for the Arts - Photobook grant

    2011 - Sony World Photography Awards, 3rd Prize, Arts & Culture

Exhibitions



Matrimania (Hyderabad)
From 2018-09-06 to 2018-09-23

« Everything that’s great about our country and everything that’s wrong with it can be summarised in a single wedding. » Mahesh Shantaram has begun his carreer as a wedding photographer in his home country, India. But he has over time transcended his role from meeting the expectations of that genre to being a witness of his own culture. He then started to question India’s paradoxes and has chosen to show well-off young couples hiring less favourited workers to achieve their Big Day Bollywood dream. So we see the confidence of the upper classes as the pressures of reality take flight and...

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