Whitechapel Art Gallery

Where Three Dreams Cross presents photography of the Indian subcontinent between 1860 and today, with special emphasis on all images being created by native-born artists. Inevitably, this conjures up questions of self-representation beginning with a time when photography ‘was no longer exclusively the preserve of colonial or European photographers’[i]. Split between the themes of Portrait, Performance, Family, Body Politic and the Street, the exhibition takes the form of a journey through varied imagery with interesting juxtapositions between old and new, tradition and modernity. Offering minimal guidance, visitors are free to chart their own path and draw individually meaningful comparisons, thus making it a particularly interesting and engaging way of interacting with the gallery space.

Inevitably, there are overlaps between the established categories, highlighting the difficulty of rationalizing a diverse body of over 400 works by 82+ artists. Also a slight downside is the discreet labelling, often positioned at waist level or below.

Overall the exhibition throws up a number of interesting questions, such as: “Are the images more ‘authentic’ because they were taken by ‘local’ photographers?” and “Do many of the contrasts between tradition and modernity highlighted not exist in other countries as well?”.

Despite these and many other possible questions, what makes this exhibition unique is the fact that it sets out both a premise and framework without seeking to present conclusions. And that is what a good exhibition should be about – providing visual enjoyment and mental stimulation, and maybe a sense that what we look at on a very small level can make a difference in how we think about ourselves and others.

[i] Whitechapel Gallery, introductory panel text