Jul 082011


— Darshan

The other day I watched a Kick Starter

video, which really impressed me.

Artist used to live and die by their

patrons, but as the royal crowns have

been swapped with blue suited

cabinets, the relationship of the patron

and the artist seems adrift.  The time

has come to revive this age old

tradition and take art making into our

own hands.

Manjari Sharma Adam Marelli

First image from the "Darshan" series of Maa Lakshmi, the Hindu Goddess of wealth and prosperity.  © Manjari Sharma

“My kid could have done that”

This famous line is uttered at every gallery around the world.  Why is a garbage bag or a crushed beer can considered art?  I will not attempt to dispute that the contents of our museums and galleries can be questionable at times.  But as an alternative to the frustration we feel while viewing sub-par work in premiere spaces, we, the people, the audience, and the patrons can improve the quality of work produced world wide.  How can we accomplish this formidable task?  Become a patron.

Manjari Sharma Adam Marelli

The make up artist applying the finishing touches on the model for "Maa Lakshmi."  © Manjari Sharma

Medici, Borghese, and Strozzi Families

Europe is not the only place where wealthy families left a legacy of art collection and production.  Families throughout all the major continents have devoted enormous sums of money to supporting the arts.  Art patronage is usually considered to be a rich man’s game, but the rules have changed.  As local economies are infused with micro loans, photography projects are now accessible through campaigns like Kickstarter where I saw Manjari Sharma project “Darshan” for the first time.

Manjari Sharma

Carpenter works on a the lotus flower.  © Manjari Sharma

On a walk down Broadway you will be approached by at least four groups of volunteers collecting money.  Gay rights, animal rights, hungry children, or the environment are the hot topics for donations.  If you decide to give, how clearly can you see the effect of your contribution?  Giving to “Hunger” is certainly useful, but in the well of despair, where is my $100?

Manjari Sharma Adam Marelli

The painter applies touches to the elephant's detailed costume.  © Manjari Sharma

Become a Patron

When we invest in photographers, we can see exactly how the money is put to use.  As a patron, you have a say in whether a project succeeds or fails.  If it is the type of project you would like to see in a gallery or a museum, you can make it happen.  Public support has a tremendous amount of power.  As a result, your relationship to a specific body of work deepens.  It becomes an opportunity for you to potentially meet the photographer, go to the opening, and potentially purchase the work at a reduced rate.  This will not be the case for every project, but it is a possibility.  It is not uncommon for patrons to receive heavy discounts if they financed a large portion of a body of work.

Manjari Sharma Adam Marelli

Painting the back drop.  © Manjari Sharma

Manjari Sharma’s Darshan

When I first watched Manjari’s video the strengths of the project were crystal clear.

Title: Darshan, a Sanskrit word that means sight, vision, or view.  I would say she’s off to a good start.

Influences: Growing up in India she was constantly exposed to Hindu paintings and deities.  This is a sensible, introspective project with a broad appeal.

The Hook: Even though deities are omni present in temples and homes, she had never seen them portrayed in a photograph.  She identifies a missing visual element in the culture, which created the body of work.

The Goal: Prove that a carefully constructed photograph can evoke a similar response to the religious paintings and sculptures.  When you consider that many Hindus believe the deities are living entities, you get a sense for the project’s ambitions.  This will be an enormous challenge, but its good to see her addressing this head on.  I can’t tell you how many artist’s statements I have read where the artist says, “my work references…”  This translates to,” I want to talk about a certain idea, but in a vague sort of way, where it is hard to tell if it is a success or failure.” Making a clear declaration about your work takes guts, because it will be judged based on your intentions.

An Inside View: India is and always will be a destination for photographers.  The layers of history and culture are fascinating.  Though I see more work coming out of India from visitors (myself included) than I see from Indians.  Its great to see Manjari engaging her own traditions based on the Hindu Deities.

The Funds: She intends to construct every image down to the last detail.  The funds will go towards sculptors, painters, make up artists, art directors, carpenters, models, and technicians to make each image.  It is understandable that this project will run into the tens of thousands of dollars.  This establishes a level of financial responsibility for the photographer, unlike some governments who have accounting miscalculations in the billions.  I’m not pointing any fingers, but you know who you are.

Manjari Sharma Adam Marelli

Manjari's vision of the final installation.  © Manjari Sharma



The Final Product: The plan is to present a massive installation of large format color prints.  This may seem silly, but its nice to see an artist’s rendering of the proposed installation.

Manjari Sharma Adam Marelli

Assembling the set.  © Manjari Sharma

Why Give?

Photography is not like the banking industry.  It can be financially challenging and no one is making hundreds of millions of dollars in bonuses.  In many cases, photographers are self funded and the work is done on speculation.  It is a risky proposition, but necessary at times.  Photographers (myself and I think you too) believe our efforts will be worth the heartache in the long run.  As an ethical rule, I don’t like to ask for contributions to the website.  There is no donate button and if you send me a check I will ask you where it should be donated.  I would prefer readers support specific projects, not the operating costs of a website.  The website is for you, your enjoyment and to support photography as a whole.

Manjari Sharma

Manjari behind the lens.  © Manjari Sharma

I have decided to contribute $100 to Manjari’s project because I believe it is well conceived, thoughtfully produced, and driven by interesting cultural elements.  The final product, even if it does not accomplish the goal of evoking a strong spiritual response, will activate a positive dialogue around the Hindu deities and the role of spirituality in a technological society.  I view the financial contribution as an investment in an artistic future.  Why would I, a photographer, invest in another photographer?  shouldn’t I be investing in my own projects?  Because I believe that if you put good energy into the world, it finds its way back to you.  If both of us need a hand, I will give you mine and you give me yours.  What we gain from the exchange is more powerful than anything we could have done as individuals.  From first hand experience, I can say that the generosity of art patrons is making my project in Tanna possible.  I am happy to share Manjari’s work with you and look forward to your investment in “Darshan.”  In the end you, the patrons, are just as important as the artist, because without you, none of this would be possible.

Manjari Sharma

Maa Lakshmi the Goddess of wealth and prosperity.  © Manjari Sharma

For additional information visit Manjari’s website below and watch her Kickstarter video, its fantastic.



Darshan from Manjari Sharma on Vimeo.

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