Fine Art Photography Daily

The Center Awards: Curator’s Choice Award 1st Place Winner: Manjari Sharma

Last week and this upcoming week, Lenscratch will be celebrating the 2014 CENTER Award Winners. We are thrilled to align with such a wonderful organization that honors, supports, and provides opportunities to gifted and committed photographers. For 20 years, CENTER has launched careers, provided incredible exposure and inspired photographers to create work that excites and challenges the photographic dialogue.

Today we celebrate Manjari Sharma‘s Curator’s Choice 1st Place Award, starting with juror, Malcolm Daniel’s, statement.


Maa Laxmi from The Darshan Series ©Manjari Sharma

CURATOR’S CHOICE: Juror’s Statement

JUROR MALCOLM DANIEL, Curator-in-Charge, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston

The many submissions to this year’s CENTER Awards represented a wide range of approaches and techniques—documentary projects, abstraction, fantasy illustration, traditional landscape and portraiture, Photoshop manipulations and nineteenth-century historic processes. The finalists I’ve chosen include a variety of subjects and strategies, but it is meant as a personal—rather than representative—selection of what I found most interesting and creative. Many worthy projects were, by necessity, eliminated as the selection was whittled down to the work of just the finalists.

In reviewing the work of so many photographers, I am struck by how genuinely hard it is to make a new picture—to use photography in a way that is different not merely in subject matter, but also in invention or personal style or strategy. The submissions included, for instance, many documentary photographic projects that were sincerely conceived and personally meaningful, noble in intent, beautifully seen, and handsomely realized… and yet not qualitatively different from one another. I applaud and encourage all those photographers, even when I have not chosen them as finalists; they may well bring personal fulfillment, share beauty and knowledge with others, and even make the world a better place.

Manjari Sharma’s “Darshan” project, which I have awarded top honors, stood out in its appearance, inspiration, intent, and technique. To me, these images hover between the traditional art they reference and something wholly inventive, between constructed fiction and “straight” photography, and between sincere spiritual expression and kitsch. “Darshan” is an ambitious and complex undertaking and was unique among the several hundred submissions reviewed.

My choice of finalists and award winners is subjective. While I hope that my judgment will feel like a vote of confidence and encouraging boost for those selected, I have no doubt that many of the other artists I reviewed will find an appreciative audience and champions elsewhere.— Malcolm Daniel, Curator-in-Charge, Museum of Fine Arts, Houston


Lord Vishnu from The Darshan Series. ©Manjari Sharma

Manjari Sharma’s Project Statement: Darshan

Darshan is an ongoing series consisting of photographically recreated, classical images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses that are pivotal to mythological stories in Hinduism. Most commonly used in the context of Hindu worship, Darshan is a sanskrit word that means “apparition” or a “glimpse.”. Lead by the experiential nature of a Darshan, this series explores the delicate relationship between photography and representation.

Having left a ritual-driven community in India, my move to the U.S. precipitated an enormous cultural shift. It was this cultural paralysis that motivated me to use my one medium of worship–the camera–to study, construct and deconstruct the mythologies of my land. The goal was to turn multidimensional memories of sculptures and ornamental paintings of Hindu Gods, into two-dimensional photographs. For centuries, the way that we have experienced darshans (metaphysical connection established upon sight) is via laying gaze upon a molded figure, a carved statue or an illustration that represents a likeness to avatars described in Hindu scripture. This series of images invites the viewer to consider a photograph as means of spiritual engagement.

To make the imagery for the series, exhaustive research on each character lead to the assemblage of a diorama, by a team of approximately thirty-five Indian craftsmen who created props, sets, prosthetics, make-up, costumes, and jewelry to exacting specifications. Printed on a massive scale, these photographs are presented in an elaborate installation that resembles the experience of a Hindu temple… complete with incense, lamps, and invocation.

By bridging the gap between the significant ceremonies of my parents lives and my own mythology, this series has become my reason to immerse, question and push the boundaries of my faith, not only beyond my imagination, but beyond the very frame that surrounds the photograph.


Lord Ganesha from The Darshan Series ©Manjari Sharma

Manjari Sharma (b 1979) is an internationally published photo-based artist born and raised in Mumbai, India and based in Brooklyn, New York. Manjari’s artwork is rooted in the study of relationships, personal mythology and experience. Amongst being in various private collections, Manjari’s work can be found in the permanent collection of Museum of Fine Arts, Houston and has been showcased in group and solo shows both in the United States and worldwide.

Manjari was chosen as an honorable mention for the Santa Fe Prize in 2012, her work selected by Review Santa Fe and featured by Griffin Museum and Photolucida Critical mass top 50. Manjari has been awarded features in various magazines print and online. The School of Museum of Fine Arts, Boston, The Rubin Museum of Art, School of Visual Arts and The University of Arkansas are amongst a few places that Manjari has been invited to lecture and teach.

Manjari’s images have appeared with Forbes India Magazine, Vogue India, Geo Magazine, America Online. She has been commisioned to work with advertising agencies such as JWT and Contract, India and has had features and interviews with New York Times, lens blog, Wired Raw File, Nikon Asia, NPR, Time, PDN, Huffington Post, CNBC, Mumbai, The Times of India group and Leica, China.

Manjari holds a bachelors degree in Visual Communication from S.N.D.T University, Mumbai and a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Still Photography from Columbus College of Art and Design in Columbus, Ohio. In addition to her fine art shows and speaking engagements Manjari accepts a limited number of commercial commissions and assignments and is available to travel worldwide. Manjari is represented by ClampArt Gallery in New York City and Richard Levy Gallery in New Mexico.


Maa Saraswati from The Darshan Series ©Manjari Sharma


Lord Brahma from The Darshan Series ©Manjari Sharma


Maa Kali from The Darshan Series ©Manjari Sharma


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