Research


Goa Center for Alternative Photography has committed itself to providing an ecosystem for research as well as R&D leadership in photography. Since 1836 photography has been developing simultaneously as art, record, communication, research tool, industry, and science around the western world. However, in south Asia and especially in India, the development was restricted to “mere commerce” and as a leisure activity.  The initial photography during the British rule in India was about colonial ethnography, surveillance and identification, often involving the imposition of identities and visual stereotypes upon Indians that they may well have resented and while the post colonial imagery represented over-painting, fantastical backdrops, artisan collage and montage work[1].

Photography researches in India have so far been confined to the anthropological and archival arena. For example, John Falconer’s seminal research on early photography in India; Christopher Pinney’s  extensive writings about the historical and anthropological aspects of photography in India[2]  (Christopher is one of the first scholars to celebrate India’s adaption of photography); numerous publications by Alkazi Collection of Photography; Malavika Karlekar’s Research into the history of early photography in Bengal, investigating its use as a social tool by the urban upper classes to record their changing lifestyles in the 19th century; Sabeena Gadihoke’s Study of women photographers in India, investigating their important role and distinct approach in the field, leading to the formation of a media course centred on women and photography.

Indians right from the days of daguerreotypes have constantly moved towards the popular culture, the latest trend and in the process, we’ve remained away from a deeper understanding of the photographic process from the scratch. In India we did not have enough knowledge nor any significant scientific research done in chemical aspects of photography right from the beginning of photography. This led to the absence of crucial information about previous artistic, commercial, and experimental photographic processes and technologies practiced in India. Neither is there any systematic documentation available about optimizing the processes that were most commonly being used to Indian climatic, optical and socio-economic conditions.

Since 1826, when Joseph Nicéphore Niépce created the “First Photograph,” more than 150 different photographic processes have been invented, used, abandoned and replaced by faster, less expensive and/or more convenient processes[3]. And now photography is increasingly replaced by digital imaging technology. At the same time a significant number of photographers are turning to older chemical processes or attempting to invent new ones for various artistic, aesthetic and technical reasons.

This is the time to initiate scientific research in India to understand the use of chemicals in photography and map their performance under Indian climatic conditions.

The most important components of the proposed research comprise the effort to develop, test and apply new methodologies and instruments to investigate the works of art; and standardizing the 150 processes in Indian climatic conditions by using and modifying the scientific procedures previously tested under western climatic conditions. This will also help in research on long-term preservation, storage, conservation treatment and/or restoration of photographs.

Goa-CAP research is initiated based on the three core principles. These are

1.  to increase our knowledge and understanding of Alternative photography.

2.  to provide the evidence-based inputs to strengthen and influence policy and decision-making.

3.  to advance professional practice and underpin service development by the generation and testing of new ideas which can then lead to knowledge generation and innovation.


[1] Camera Indica: The Social Life of Indian photographs London, 1997 Christopher Pinney: Reaktion Books/Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

[2] http://www.christopherpinney.com/text.php

[3] Alternative Process Photography and Science meet at the Getty, 2010, J. Paul Getty Trust,