Chummo Ammalays, Hidden Nunnery, Ladakh, Prabir Purkayastha,
20 in × 30 in, black and white photograph on archival Epson digital paper, 2002
Ancient Grace is a collection of 23 photographs taken by Indian photographer Prabir Purkayastha in Ladakh in northern India between 1998 and 2008. The region is situated between the borders of Pakistan and the restive Chinese areas of Xinjiang and Tibet and is one of the few bastions of Buddhism in South Asia. Purkayastha’s incisive style captures the unique landscapes and culture of the region in atomized detail. Purkayastha returned to Ladakh multiple times over a period of years to document the diverse light effects during each of the four seasons, and his work sometimes resembles ethnographic or topographic documentation. The diversity of subjects is united by his cohesive style, making the assemblage of photographs testimony to a meticulous personal journey wherein the photographer connects himself and his own desire for understanding to the external world.
Ancient Grace ran from May 2 to July 8, 2012, at Tally Beck Contemporary Gallery, 42 Rivington Street, New York. There was an opening reception at the gallery on May 2, 2012. Photos of the opening reception, which was sponsored by Tiger Beer, can be viewed at this link.
On Wednesday, June 6, 2012, from 6:30 to 8:30 pm, art historian and photography specialist Anne H. Hoy discussed Purkayastha’s work and its context in the medium. Professor Hoy is the author of the survey history The Book of Photography: The History, the Technique, the Art, the Future (National Geographic, 2005), Fabrications: Staged, Altered, and Appropriated Photographs (Abbeville, 1987), Silver Screen/Silver Prints: Hollywood Glamour Photographs (Grolier Club, 2011), and other texts on photography and design. A former curator at the International Center of Photography, she has taught the history of photography and other modern arts since 1995 at New York University.