Bhupendra Karia (1936-1994) never set out to be a photographer–first he was an artist, a theorist and world traveler. Once he shifted his primary medium to photography, he continuously defined and redefined himself as a photographer, and Karia became a savvy observer of artistic, cultural and social forces of his time. He informed his photography with the formal rigor of the artist and designer’s mind, the concern of a humanist social theorist’s heart, and the discerning eye of a seasoned curator. Ultimately his photographic journey, both literal and figurative, would lead him to distill twenty years of photographs comprising hundreds of thousands of images into a portfolio of 50 masterfully crafted prints that he felt epitomized his oeuvre and his unique view of India.
Bhupendra Karia attended Bombay’s Sir J.J. College of Art, for Fine Art. From 1957-1960, Karia continued his graduate studies at Tokyo University of Fine Arts. During this time he began his photographic career, and returned to India as a freelance photographer. After teaching and heading photography and design departments at the University of Southern California and the University of Baroda, Karia worked with Cornell Capa, his mentor and friend, in establishing the International Center for Photography in New York. Karia held many positions at ICP including Curator, Director of Special Projects, and Associate Director. He published over 15 titles and curated over 45 exhibitions.
Karia’s thoughtful and luminous photographs, created primarily in India and Israel, reflect a distinct approach separate from the popular photographic trend of street photography in India during 1970s/1960s. Karia says, “[India] is not without great beauty and tenderness – a pensive wistful, wildflower kind of beauty, accidentally encountered in the most unsuspected situations. There is a recondite part of being Indian, the attachment to Indian landscape.” His photographs possess an ethereal yet formally rigorous quality, deeply steeped in both cultural awareness and personal vision.