From April 7th to May 12th, Indians are going to the polls for one of the world’s largest parliamentary elections. More than 800 million citizens are in the process of electing the 552 members of the Lok Sabha (the Indian House of the People in lower parliament) who will elect the next prime minister.
It was this unique moment in Indian public life which Fabrica, the communications and design research center in Benetton, chose to examine with an original editorial project by asking ten young Indian photographers and video artists to produce work about their country through the prism of the election.
“What do they have to say about contemporary India? How do they see their country?” asks Enrico Bossan, artistic director of the project at Fabrica. “At Fabrica we want to support young artists looking at their own country, as opposed to an outsider photographer’s external vision.” Manik Katyal, co-curator of the project in India and director of the online magazine Emaho says, “India is a complex country composed of 29 states each with their own languages, food and traditions. Through these citizens’ reports, the ten photographers have created a portrait of India today.”
The subjects and visual effects are rich and varied. Using images from Google Maps, Arko Datto creates a map of the cities ruled by the two largest competing parties: the Hindu national party of Narendra Modi, BJP, and the Congress Party of Rahul Gandhi. Kannagi Khanna presents an illustrated guide to the political programs of all the political parties. Ronny Sen draws viewers’ attention to the impact of television in the elections. With over 500 TV stations in India, the medium is crucial to campaign strategy.
“I also went to speak with intellectuals in Calcutta to ask them how they feel about the elections and to take their portraits. They’re very hard on Modi, whom they consider dangerous. If he’s elected, they say, Indian democracy itself may be destabilized,” he says.
Viewers will also discover the predictions of Indian astrologists on who will win the elections, and a report on a Bombay rapper who believes that election season will pass like mango or melon season.
Every day the website Lok Sabha is posting new photo and video reports from photographers in major Indian cities. “In addition to the website, we want to publish a book of these exceptionally rich stories,” say Bossan and Katial. It would be a major project to match a major event in Indian history.