Photographer Dayanita Singh has for long been on the experimental forefront of a profession that many still challenge as art. With her attempt at a graphic novel in pictures she has found yet another way to break rules. Where neither words nor drawings are used for the literal expression of ideas, the photo is itself a form of narration, its content a symbolic suggestion of themes.
The descriptive terrain of word and thought is much harder to achieve in pictures. Dayanita uses light—and darkness—to render her subject into a poetic refrain. The ambiguity of the literary experience is caught by Milton’s ‘darkness visible’, referenced by Aveek Sen in his accompanying essay. Among the collection of nine photo stories is Portrait of a Marriage, a comic, sad, disjointed rendering that uses symbolic pictorial references of a wedding—band, photographer, lights etc.
All through, the questioning nature of Dayanita’s career as photographic journalist, artist, now graphic novelist—recounts photography’s multiple mutations: as repetitive passport picture, as misrepresented photographer in lurid self-portrait, and as infinite smudgings of colour and reproduction techniques. The interpretive nature of the picture reading calls for great involvement from the viewer; the private side of your own experience must be allowed to mingle with the camera image for the story to make sense. It is often hard to tell if Dayanita is dissecting her profession or laughing at herself or the subject, or in fact, at the viewer. The result is unlike anything else in book form.