Critical review of Jason Scott Tilley’s “People of India”

Jason Scott Tilley’s people of India exhibition consists of three different series of images put together. There are two historical series, the earliest being images taken from the photo book “The people of India” which contained portraits of people in the 19thcentury under the British rule. The next historical series where photos taken by Bert Scott, Jason Scott Tilley’s grandfather, around the 1940’s. Tilley shot the contemporary series over 8 years in India often retracing his grandfathers steps. This adds a  personal essence to the overall exhibition, working alongside the prints his grandfather had created. Tilley’s inspiration came from constant viewing of family photo albums as he grew up.

Bert Scott’s images don’t seem to have been taken for a mass viewing purpose, they are snapshots of family and friends. The real link between this series and Tilley’s is the emotional connection between relatives. This link wouldn’t have been prominent if we didn’t have a one to one viewing of the exhibition with Tilley himself. This gave us a personal insight into how he wants the images to be viewed. As a group we did not feel that this section of the series would’ve been as strong if exhibited alone without the other elements and the narrative throughout the whole series.

The images from “The people of India” book consisted of achieved images that gave us an insight into the history of India. Although, as a group we came to the conclusion that we felt that these images had a repetitive nature. These images needed lengthy context to give the audience a better insight into the characters portrayed. They seemed very regimented and utilitarian and where created for documentary purposes rather than art.

In contrast to this; the participants in Tilley’s work played a more active role in the image making process. The characters in the images represent themselves making what could be perceived as a more truthful image. Therefore the supporting text was only brief giving a short anecdote to how the image came about. In addition to this the overall presentation of these prints had a very modern feel in juxtaposition to his grandfathers work, which was displayed in teak frames. This was a conscious decision to separate each series and the time period in which they where shot. Tilley also mentioned that he used teak frames, as this was another personal connection to his grandparents.

We believe Scott Tilley’s work could be compared to the works of Diane Arbus, as she explores a similar theme within her photographic series. Both Arbus and Tilley explore curiosity and have a personal connection with some but not all of there subjects.

Overall, the exhibition was a powerful encounter into the world that is Tilley’s family history of his grandfather and a series of documentary images that Tilley created. In conclusion the exhibition as a whole was an eye opening experience and a one of a kind opportunity to an insight of a different world. Although, highly recommended that you give yourself plenty of time to look round to gain the full experience of “People of India

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