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1991 | 16mm | 60 minutes
Directed by David and Judith MacDougall, Fieldwork Films
Renowned ethnographic filmmakers David and Judith MacDougall explore the many meanings of photography in this profound and penetrating documentary. The film focuses on the photographers of Mussoorie, a hill station in the Himalayan foothills of northern India whose fame has attracted tourists since the 19th century.
Through a rich mixture of scenes that includes the photographers at work, their clients, and both old and new photographs, this extraordinary film examines photography as art and as social artefact — a medium of reality, fantasy, memory, and desire.
Award for Excellence, Society for Visual Anthropology Film Festival, 1994
Material Culture Film Prize, RAI Film Festival, 1992
Honorary Mention, Golden Gate Awards, San Francisco Film Festival, 1992
A quote from the 1992 review of Photo Wallahs by Joanna Cohan Scherer in American Anthropologist 94 (4): 1029-30.
“Exceptional… and remarkable. I found the film thought-provoking, particularly regarding the issues of universals in photography versus unique cultural presentations and representations.” — Joanna Cohan Scherer, Smithsonian Institution, in American Anthropologist
Judith & David MacDougall
David MacDougall is a documentary filmmaker and writer on cinema. He has made ethnographic films in East Africa, Australia, Sardinia, and India. Judith MacDougall has made more than a dozen documentary and ethnographic films, many jointly with David. Together they produced the ‘Turkana Conversations’ trilogy in Kenya in 1973-4, including The Wedding Camels (1977), andlater Photo Wallahs (1991) about Indian photography and Awareness (2010), as well as eight films on Australian Aboriginal communities, including Takeover (1980) and Sunny and the Dark Horse (1986). Among David’s films are To Live with Herds (1972), Tempus de Baristas (1993), SchoolScapes (2007), and Under the Palace Wall (2014). In 1997-2001 he conducted a study of the Doon School in northern India, producing Doon School Chronicles (2000) and four other films, followed by films about the Rishi Valley School in South India, and Gandhi’s Children (2008), on a shelter for homeless children in Delhi. In 1997 Judith made Diya, a film about ritual oil lamps and a family of potters in Dehradun, northern India; and in 2007, The Art of Regret, about the emergence of digital photography in Kunming, southwest China. She has taught numerous workshops and postgraduate film courses in Australia and Europe. David is the author of many journal articles and three books, Transcultural Cinema (1998), The Corporeal Image (2006), and The Looking Machine (2019), with a fourth, The Art of the Observer, forthcoming in 2022. He is presently Honorary Professor at the Research School of Humanities and the Arts, Australian National University, Canberra. He recently conducted the video workshop project ‘Childhood and Modernity’ which encouraged Indian children to use video cameras to make films about topics in their own communities.
Swati Dandekar is documentary filmmaker from Bangalore, India, with a special interest in creating visual narratives of the living history around her; of people, places, ideas, traditions, practices, and the continuous process of change. Her most recent work is “Neeli Raag”, a feature length documentary on indigo, the natural dye, and the few surviving craftsmen who still work with it. Her past work is a series of essay films that explore the relationship between place, people, resources and the institutions that govern these. Her film “Water and a City” was widely screened in India and abroad, and is part of the curriculum for courses in water management and development studies. In addition, she has been closely involved with designing media for education. As a founder member of Vikalp Bengaluru, she has been actively screening documentary films and curating festivals in Bangalore city for over ten years.
At present, she teaches film at the Srishti Institute of Art, Design and Technology, Bangalore.