Marlene Apmann lays out the red carpet for Bengaluru girls
Marlene Apmann had a simple plan for her project, The Red Carpet. On an art residency in Bengaluru, the photographer from Germany wanted to capture the colours and beauty around her — and she didn’t have to look far.
Marlene, in fact, settled on public spaces like Lal Bagh, and the city bus stand, to frame portraits of girls she would meet in her walkabouts around the city. The element that changes the equation, almost like a beauty pageant sash placed across every frame, is that of a red carpet — the kind used in high-profile ceremonies and gala affairs.
“As a photographer, I like the colours in India, bright and omnipresent,” says Marlene, in an email exchange. “People dress up in combinations that you cannot see in Germany, but it fits here,” she observes.
For Marlene, the idea was “To give girls and young women the opportunity to feel special for a moment in their lives.” She explains, “For sure, they all have admired celebrities on red carpets. But in my project, they have the opportunity to be that very important person, and get this documented by my portrait.”
At her show, which also serves as a culminating point for her four-year stay in the city, the models are all everyday folk, with no evident makeup and styling. Marlene explains her emphasis on real-world aspects “made visible in the background of my photos, but keeping the focus on the person in front of my camera”.
‘A surreal edifice’
“Marlene’s images appear deceptively simple. Only on a deeper examination do they reveal levels of socio-cultural and political engagement and reverberation,” offers a note by critic and curator Giridhar Khasnis, at the show.
“In Marlene’s art, the ‘symbolic’ carpet becomes at the same time a venue, a battleground, and a surreal edifice set in a locale where the logical merges seamlessly with the ludicrous,” he says.
“I see the red carpet as a piece of conceptual art, mixing elements of fashion and street life,” offers Marlene. The red carpet, in essence, results in a certain “intrusion” of space, and the blurring of lines, explains the curatorial note, to “expose the borders between the real and the fantastic, the familiar and the unknown, the clear and the contradictory”.
Marlene also expresses gratitude for the people she met. “I was amazed about the performance of the girls, who cooperated in an open and focussed attitude, being wonderful models,” she says.
“For me, the way these girls are dressed in more or less normal life is opposite to the way girls and women are treated in India, with a lot of limitation and discrimination, which can also be felt by the sensitive spectator in some of the portraits.”
The ideal portrait, for Marlene, is one that reveals a personality in front of the camera, and aspects of character and temper. “It is deeper than the aesthetic surface,” she explains. “Interestingly enough, not one of my ‘models’ from the project had the desire for a career as a model in the fashion world,” adds Marlene.
The Red Carpet is on display at Gallery Manora till January 6, 2018.