Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Inderpal (Innee) Singh is an incredible, visual storyteller of art and culture.
Several aspects about his life are prescient; several of them seem to have placed him in exactly the right place at the right time to do what he loves most: Indian classical art photography.
When there is a classical music or dance event in Delhi, one is likely to find Mr. Singh with his camera watching closely from the wings.
Indeed, not seeing him at a concert makes people feel as if a key member of the audience was not present.
That is because Innee Singh is, first, a master at watching dance, and at watching the people who make great art.
Innee Singh recently shared that research says that people who listen to music while watching something tend to find what they see more beautiful, somehow.
This seemed like perfect validation for Mr. Singh's own famous method of photographing portraits or events with music playing in the background. In the same way that music must surely clear out the noise of thoughts from his mind and enable him to get into the flow of photographing, Innee Singh seems to do the same 'clearing-out' for us through his photographs.
When one looks through his rich collections, one finds unique, defining themes: he places utmost primacy on the individual, even when the person is found in a group setting. He often cuts away the noise of real life by blackening it, and directs our attention completely on the people, or the prevailing mood of the moment.
Innee Singh makes people feel seen. He often reaches close to the dancer or the musician through his powerful lens, and seems to join in the moment with the performer. Thus, Singh not only sees the moment, but is also in the moment, with perfect, silent understanding of the artist when he captures it forever.
Innee Singh has a long-running mug shot series, in which he invites some of the finest classical artists from around the country into his studio to capture them in black and white. The genius of Mr. Singh is that he takes artists who we all know, and somehow shows us a side of them that we somehow never saw. His photos evoke immediate, pressing questions. We find ourselves asking: what was this artist thinking during this photo shoot? What made their facial expression like this at that precise moment? Innee Singh masterfully engages anyone who sees a portrait with these immediate questions; the answers to which, of course, only he knows, and the artists know.
Innee Singh surprises us. He is also a thinker; his stories on social media are often peppered with insights that provide rays of insight for artists of all hues. (Our favorite being his shared post on critics; how imperative it is for critics to discover, highlight and befriend the new and emerging.)
But it is not just the new and emerging whom Innee Singh supports and nourishes with the attention of his camera. Being at the center of a rich network of artists has also allowed Mr. Singh to do his bit to bring about new art, such as the digital production Hum Saath Hain.
Singh is also notably a part of "Tell me about it," a conversational series that often has the look and feel of an art documentary series. While the conversations are beautiful and valuable on their own, the aesthetics and the set of eyes that Mr. Singh brings to the table in every project add more beauty to whatever he sees.
Because Innee Singh is able to see beauty, we are all able to see it too.
In terms of classical event photography, it is beautiful to see the array of techniques used by Singh to elevate both the artist and their art.
For instance, he often isolates the dancer to bring out the theatre element of dance. (Needless to say, a dancer or musician is usually performing for an audience, but in the photos of Innee Singh, the artists seem to be performing in solitude; for themselves; in the backdrop of a black abyss.) Sometimes Innee Singh introduces a silent, "ordinary" spectator in his photographs which sits still like an audience member, like us: like a brass vase of flowers standing on the floor of a stage, or the two stage lights shining from the ceiling, or the distant lit lamp on the side of the stage. There is only the dance, and the spectator; and there is the seemingly private, dramatic, visual monologue of the artist.
The effect of all this is that his photography is a true peon to the Indian art of abhinaya, which the artists do professionally, and non-artists do as they live.
He captures the relationship between musicians and dancers by showing how they work in tandem. He captures quiet, candid moments of individuals in which the subject clearly didn't realize that they were being captured. He sometimes even goes beyond capturing the individual to focus only on nameless, faceless spirit with the use of dynamic, blurred movement of an artist on stage.
Innee Singh is the photographer who is in perpetual search for "ordinary" moments, even during grand celebrations and festivals of music and dance, because he knows that the ordinary is not ordinary, but spiritual, precious, and timeless instead.
And that is, perhaps, what makes his photography so extraordinary. ■
Photo at the start of the article was taken by Innee Singh. (www.inneesingh.com)
Photographer Profile by Lakshmi Art Press.