AJAY SINHA, Professor of Art History, Mount Holyoke College
Chair: JINAH KIM, Gardner Cowles Associate Professor of History of Art & Architecture and Faculty Director, Arts @ Mittal Institute
In the Spring of 1938, an Indian dancer, Ram Gopal, posed in a variety of fantastical costumes for the American photographer, Carl Van Vechten, in New York City. Studying over 100 large-size photographs resulting from the photoshoot, the lecture builds an illustrated story of their mutual fascination and exchange, triggered by the camera. The remarkable images, now part of the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscripts Library, Yale University, show traces of the myriad, transcultural relations being performed during the photoshoot. They reveal an interplay of differing investments in the image when we ask: What does the Indian dancer show the camera; what does the American photographer see through his lens? Their visual exploration helps us elaborate on an underrepresented history of exchanges between the cultural worlds of India and the U.S. in early-20th century.