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A discussion has been initiated among a group of young people whose skin were dark in color.   Most of these people were having complexities about their dark complexion. For some of them, it was a childhood memory and has recovered from it. We were discussing the use of fairness cream and the obsession about white skin in Indian society. The argument started with the fact that last year the market of fairness cream was Rs. 3000 crore in India. (According to economic times: “India is supposedly fascinated by three Gs — Ganga, Gandhi and Gora. One is far from pure now, the other present principally in spirit and on currency notes; but it's the last that has catapulted into Rs 3000 crore commercial business”. : Shephali Bhatt, ET Bureau Feb 26, 2014, 08.00 AM IST)

The responses were interesting. Discrimination in terms of color still prevails in our country; most people think that it derived from the colonial past of this nation. The group I was discussing with were in the age group of 20 to 30 and they were also having a notion that it originated from our colonial past. They also think that in our society/ public sphere it has a roll in terms of power demonstration thus it is related to discriminations. They think that there is a simple equation which is fairer people = beautiful people= powerful people. Some of them told that historically it has been denominated like that, and it is true that this bunch of people has suffered as they are black. As a result, they all tried to be fairer at times. They also informed that most of them have used fairness cream but got disappointed. There were also some people who have refused to take part in this discussion.


After this discussion, I told them about the wet plate collodion process, that this is the method which has been used in anthropological documentation of colonial India in the 19th century. I also informed that they were using Iodides & Bromides of silver which is not sensitive to red, yellow but sensitive to blue and UV light, hence the Indian who was having more red, yellow hue skin, they will be black in the photograph which they were actually not.

I explain them the process and ask them how they wanted to be photographed in the wet plate collodion process. Some of them thought using instant whitening powder some did nothing; some even apply 'Multani mitti'. I offered them to direct me how they want their photograph so that they looked beautiful. Some wanted to exaggerate the notion and applied an excess amount of talc on their face.

After that, there was a long session of making ambrotype photographs with my 10”X12” wooden plate camera. 






While studying visual art, Arpan Mukherjee has taken photography as his medium of expression. His works are based on socio-economic and political issues, the narrative in nature and represented in documentary format. He thinks the process of making to develop a body of work is the fundamental part of his work, without sharing which his works are incomplete. He uses 19th-century photographic process as a medium of his work.  

He is among the very few artists who work with ‘alternative photography’ in the country and has developed mediums like gum dichromate, salt print, wet plate collodion, homemade silver gelatin emulation etc, according to Indian climatic conditions. He did extensive research on 19th-century photography methods and materials since 2001 and incorporated into mainstream visual art arena. 

Arpan has participated in numbers of international and national level exhibitions and workshops. He has given lectures on photographic history, and his own works nationally and internationally. 2010 he has received ‘Photographer of the year ‘award from 'Better Photography' magazine. 

Arpan has received BFA & MFA in printmaking and presently teaching in the department of printmaking in VisvaBharati University, Santiniketan.   

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