Thursday, August 9, 2012

Vision To Visuals: Wakhan Journeys

By Baldev Duggal Published in The Business of Photography
Vision To Visuals: Wakhan Journeys
The Wakhan Journey was exhibited in three sections at the Milk Gallery—the "Traces of Time" series contained the large-scale black-and-white portraits, the second section in a multimedia space showed video portraits shot in a village on the border of China, and the final section was the classical photography gallery—a transition from the conceptual and symbolic to the literal part of the journey.

When I first met Varial & Nadjari, I was so enthralled by their passion and commitment to tell a positive story of a "desolate region" that I personally sat through each meeting with them at Duggal to ensure that the design of the final exhibition did justice to the gargantuan effort they had undertaken to bring us the beauty of Afghanistan. Marina Stark, a senior member of our creative team, worked closely with both of them, testing their works on several print substrates, then finally helping them choose a digital metallic paper for their black-and-white prints to create what Varial & Nadjari describe as a "mineral feeling" in the image. We printed and installed the final works, the sizes of which ranged from 18x24 inches to 4x6 feet. Their works were produced on metallic paper, archival mounts behind nonreflective plexi and anodized aluminum and gallery bracing with aluminum tube braces to prevent warping over time. For the Polaroids, we choose deep matte paper, and it was unlaminated, which is unusual when the paper is surface-mounted. The images were enlarged to 4x4 feet to render an ethereal painterly manner and represent the effect of the "high-altitude degradation."

The opening ceremony at the Milk Gallery drew more than 1,000 attendees from across the art and entertainment worlds, with the most notable attendees being Afghanis who were as surprised as anyone there to discover the Wakhan region and its splendorous beauty. "

"We are positive storytellers," stated Varial & Nadjari. "We want people to think about things differently. We had two layers of intention for the exhibition—to challenge what people think of a country by showing them another version that they never had access to and, secondly, to create a reflection on our own relationship to images—not only by showing another perspective, but also to show how people react to the images. And then we want people to contemplate on the fact that if Afghanistan had not gone through years of war, it might all still look this beautiful."

Seeing the final works in the exhibition made me feel very proud of having contributed to shedding a positive light on a region on which many have given up hope. And this kind of acknowledgement about our work from the photographers filled me with great pride about the Duggal team: "We had a great chance to work with Duggal. We realized working with them that printing is very much an integral part of the artwork—the way you print a picture and the paper you use totally defines the perspective the viewer will have."

Added Varial & Nadjari, "We were not suspecting the degree of finesse and fine-tuning that you can have in the printing process. The team at Duggal really understood our vision, and they found the best material to express our vision—the results were truly mind-blowing.

For more information on Duggal, visit Duggal at or check out the blog at and see their newest articles on the printing, photography and fine-art industries.

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