PhotoSouthAsia is a noncommercial, nonprofit project of the MurthyNAYAK Foundation. We make every effort to provide uplifting, edifying interviews, stories, essays, and more. This is a labor of love. There are just the two of us, who devote our free time to this project, with one full-time researcher in India.
Having met a few wonderful photographers through our projects with the MurthyNAYAK Foundation (MNF), we thought it would be fun to learn more. We started researching photographers, beginning in India, where we visit most often (pre COVID-19). There were a few sites we found that listed a handful of folks, but we wanted more. We thought there should be a place that offered some biographical information, some insights or opinions from the individual, and examples of the work. When we couldn’t find a good source, we decided to make one – something for our own edification and enjoyment. Something that wasn’t trying to sell the photographers or their art, but if it connected them to a potential buyer or collector, a curator or an editor, then we saw that as serendipitous.
The idea for PhotoSouthAsia grew from there. This online resource focuses on photographers and lens-based artists whose subject is South Asia in all its beauty and bleakness, its struggle and its serenity, its cultural celebrations and clashes. Also collected here is news and insight from and about photographers and others in the photo world with connections to South Asia.
From social documentary photographers and photojournalists to street photographers to lens-based artists, we would like to hear from you, as we go along, if you don’t see someone that you think should be included.
Having studied communications media in Mumbai, India, after earning his B.A. in sociology / anthropology at St. Xavier’s College, Vasant Nayak gained extensive experience with photography and media in India prior to coming to the United States to earn his Master of Visual Arts degree from Purdue University in Lafayette, Indiana.
Before the years when his talents were given full time to an online venture, Vasant had a career as a professor, digital artist, and photographer. He created and directed a master’s degree program in digital arts at the Maryland Institute, College of Art in Baltimore, Maryland; one of the first of its kind in the U.S. Vasant has participated internationally in numerous group and solo exhibitions of his work throughout his art career. After nearly a decade, he left his teaching career at MICA and took a hiatus from the art world.
Vasant’s interest in the digital arts planted other ideas he wanted to pursue. He worked on the development of custom-built software, marketing, branding, building an online community, and he pushed e-commerce into new realms. Once financial success in business enabled the establishment of the MurthyNAYAK Foundation, Vasant returned to working in communications media, making short films, websites, publications, and more for NGOs in India and nonprofit organizations in the United States, working for social change.
He is making photographs again. India remains the source of his inspiration. Vasant says, although his body resides in the United States, his soul dwells in India, and his mind traverses between the two.
The early years of her fine arts education trained Shay primarily in drawing, painting, and ceramic sculpture. An interest in photography came more than 15 years later, when she decided to take classes to collage photographic prints into her large drawings. This was in the mid ’90s, though. Vasant was teaching one of these photography classes, and she learned to create digital montages. No more pots of paste and buckling paper. The manipulation of photographic images and online projects became central to her work and the focus of her graduate degree from the Maryland Institute, College of Art, Baltimore.
The opportunity for travel also came late to Shay, but the desire was with her from childhood. It was never a plan to collect destinations, ticking them off one by one, but pilgrimages to places she was drawn to, could get to know, and would want to return to. India is such a place for Shay. From her first visit there in 2008, it was like coming home. It is a place where she feels a sense of déjà vu among the people and in the landscape and where she hears the wind calling her name.
In 2017, we first got to know Anita over eMail when the MurthyNAYAK Foundation began working with her to establish a grant for social documentary photographers. At the time, Anita was at the Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication (SACAC) as Director of Photography in Delhi, with which we have partnered for this award. We actually met at FotoFest 2018, when the MNF sponsored five Indian photographers to make the trip to Houston, TX, and participate in FotoFest.
Our connection with Anita led to our engaging her for this online resource. She has helped us to connect with artists and writers for collaboration, conducted interviews, and collected information and images.
In January 2020, the MurthyNAYAK Foundation conducted a symposium in Delhi for South Asian photographers and educators to present their successes and challenges, learn from one another, and network for collaboration. Anita was invaluable in organizing this event, which was a great success.
Anita is a photographer and lens-based artist. Learn about her practice here.
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Encouragement and financial support are important to artists who have the talent and the courage to hold a magnifying glass before unpleasantness and a mirror to the face of society. By funding specific projects of filmmakers, photographers, and other artists, MNF aims to highlight important issues, transforming ignorance and apathy into concern and action. If a picture was once worth a thousand words, film and social media have increased that exponentially. It is our goal to support emerging artists producing socially relevant work that will raise awareness, sustain involvement, and ignite social change. In order to make the most effective use of MNF’s resources, grant making focuses on specific, short-term projects. (MNF has a 501(c)(3) designation in the U.S.)