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Dayanita Singh


Dayanita Singh. Untitled, 2007. Gift of Meredith and Akhil Sharma.

Date of birth

The work of renowned New Delhi–born artist Dayanita Singh defies easy categorization, but she considers herself primarily “a bookmaker working with photography” and often collaborates with publisher Gerhard Steidl.

Singh began her career as a photojournalist after first studying design in Ahmedabad and then, encouraged by mentor Mary Ellen Mark, studying documentary photography at the International Center of Photography. Over the course of her career, Singh has developed a way of working in fluid, thematically interconnected photographic series that she revisits in various contexts such as artist’s books, photographic series, and freestanding sculptures.

Singh’s projects are intertwined and often rooted in the concept of the archive. While the artist book is her primary mode of display and communication, in 2013 she began constructing what she calls portable “Museums”—wooden structures that can be placed in various architectural configurations, each holding many individual photographs that span her artistic oeuvre. Some of her Museums were on view in the 2014 Art Institute exhibition Dayanita Singh. Singh has referred to the photographs in her vast archive as individual “words” that she arranges and rearranges into diaristic narratives dealing with Indian life and culture. In 2013, the museum acquired one of Singh’s earliest photographic series Myself Mona Ahmed (1989–2001), which chronicles the life of outcast eunuch Mona Ahmed, whom Singh met while on assignment in 1989. She frequently uses images of Mona Ahmed in her ongoing Museum structure series, attesting to the lasting significance of their friendship, as Mona appears and reappears as the series evolves.

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