Kolkata International Photo Festival – Witness the world’s first human photo show by Kounteya Sinha


The artist Kounteya Sinha calls the show “unremembered” – his protest against invisibility, asks the world to notice, to care.

His penchant for the extra ordinary, for the gigantic, for art that must have soul is legendary.

Imagine a burnt down cinema hall. You walk in through walls peeling off like a snake shedding her skin. You enter this gigantic space that is now dead but was once Kolkata’s favourite address for cinema lovers.

Kounteya Sinha is a photographer and you’ve come to see photographs.

You look around for photographs, but what you find are real people, in flesh and blood looking at you through large wooden frames.

“Unremembered” is India’s first ever show of human photographs – where pictures talk to people.

Kounteya Sinha, who is actually the festival director of the KIPF says “Identity or the lack of it has always bothered me. We photographers document the world with pure honesty, telling stories that are trying so hard to hide. But how many people actually care about the subjects they photograph? How many even want to find out their names, who they are, where do they come from, what is their favorite memory, why are their lives invisible, what is his or her worst nightmare, do they have people to love or are they just things no one notices?”.

“My latest show is therefore a serious protest against invisibility. Unremembered as a show will have photographs but the focus will be on human subjects. Real people I wanted to photograph will be sitting there as human subjects. Instead of showing their photographs that you would have otherwise admired for the character of their faces or the play of light, I have decided to show the real humans instead. Unremembered will tell people how to remember. The next time they photograph someone, the next time they see someone as a subject, they must remember that this is a person, not a thing,” Sinha said.

“Unremembered” will open to Kolkata’s venerable art lovers on March 2 and will go on till March 4, every day from 3 pm-6 pm.

Sinha has chosen one of Kolkata’s most astounding location for his latest show – the abandoned single screen movie theater – Gem Cinema.

What’s better, the scenography, the visual interpretation and installations of the show is being done by one of Bengal’s greatest artists – Susanta Paul.

Susanta Paul

The national award winning designer who has become an institution in Kolkata for his work on the city’s largest event – Durga Pujas – having conceptualised and created 42 gigantic such pujas in two decades said “Kounteya Sinha’s incredibly powerful idea coupled with his insanely haunting photographs impressed me beyond measure. The way he sees the world, the way he captures a story that others can’t see, the way he moves people with his art – the emotional reaction he brings out in them, lay to rest the ever churning debate on whether photography is art. It is pure art for me. It has a way to move and captivate that only art can do. Kounteya shows us that photography isn’t about capturing beautiful things or isn’t a fixed frame. Those beautiful things, those photographs must say something powerful. They must capture specific moments that provokes the audience to look within themselves, introspect”.

Paul added “In the duration of our lifespan, all of us ignore or are unable to see things around us – we fail to notice. Then one day our life comes to an end and we leave without having noticed so many things. Kounteya’s Unremembered tells people to notice. My installations will draw people to come out and notice – as an audience they have to cross the boundary to reach the subject and see things rather than live through life scratching only it surface. As a student at Kolkata’s Government Art College, my initiation to the world public installation started with Durga Pujas. My art practise is therefore born out of large spaces. White cube or gallery shows is too congested for my thinking. My art is also a collaborative exercise. In the Durga Pujas, I as a director conceptualise an idea but hundereds of people together make it a reality. Both Unremembered and the Gem Cinema is beyond the traditional white cube and is a deeply thought provoking space. Kolkata wouldn’t have seen a show like this ever before”.

Kounteya Sinha’s subjects are raw and real. From a lone Hindu boy living in perfect harmony is a fully Muslim locality to an 80-year-old woman who settled in Bengal but carries her Andhra roots through the jewellery she wears every day, from women who are progressive and bold to those still reeling under the injustice of a conservative thinking, from a female Baul singer to an abandoned child, Sinha’s human photographs will teach the world once again to see.

Kounteya has a real taste for flamboyance. He is like “an untiring tidal wave” that loves what is daunting and keeps returning to the shore to tame the impossible. A disappearing act that is probably his only predictable virtue.

But then, he appears out of nowhere with this eclectic and path breaking work and takes cities and people by storm, only to once more return to his solitary lair.

His projects are elaborate, spectacular and a sure recipe for a win.

His sense of dimension and size of an idea even before it is born is an uncanny gift, and this time too, the artist in him hasn’t disappointed.

His intense, borderline obsession with “art that matters” – where he believes that creativity must have purpose and meaning and must be strong and wild enough to take on a mission, however difficult, has once again made this young creative power house come up with an idea that will take the world by storm.

Sinha who once made 60 of Kolkata’s rickshaw wallas the chief guests of his show and brought Om Puri to interact with them – the original rickshaw wala in the movie of City of Joy said “For me, everything has to matter, no fluff. Shows must be bigger that the artists. They must be able to look down upon us. And by size I don’t mean how large the show is but how big actually are the dimensions of an idea”.

Unremembered is a show that will shake up the art world and take the first edition of the KIPF to heady heights.

You will never forget what you will see.





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