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Artist of the Day | Dayanita Singh

Dayanita Singh

File Room


5 Archival Pigment Prints

15 × 15 in


Dayanita Singh was born in New Delhi in 1961 and studied at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad and the International Center of Photography in New York.

Dayanita Singh, a self-described “bookmaker who works with photography,” is best known for her portraits of India’s urban elite and middle class. In making her books, she approaches each series as a total narrative rather than a compilation of individual experiences. One of the most significant Indian photographers of her generation, Singh established her reputation working primarily in black-and-white, though she has recently turned to lush color photography to investigate the play of light and shadow in un-peopled, anonymous spaces.

Dayanita Singh’s File Room is an elegy to paper in the age of the digitization of information and knowledge. The analogue photographer and bookmaker has a unique relationship with paper that is integral not only to the work of making of images, texts and memory, but also to a larger confrontation with chaos, mortality and disorder in the labyrinths of working bureaucratic archives in a country of more than a billion people. The endless rows of files in Indian courts, municipal offices, state archives and other such institutions for the conservation of human data create monuments to knowledge and to the arts of memory. They have their own atmosphere and architecture, rooted both in history and in the present. Archivists spend their lives organizing and conserving these forests of paper; historians and scholars forage in them for voices from the past; and the lives of ordinary men and women get entangled in the bureaucratic and litigious systems with their own copiousness of paperwork and files.

Including an interview with Hans Ulrich Obrist that relates this book with Singh’s other books and bodies of work, and texts by Aveek Sen that explore the different ways in which the mad world of files and paperwork continue to touch ordinary lives, File Room is itself an archive of archives. It documents, and reflects on, the nature of paper as material and symbol in the work of making photographs and books.

Courtesy of,,

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