Artist Reflection Anu Kumar
GetInTouch Melbourne Art Resident
Anu Kumar is a photographic artist living and working in Naarm (Melbourne, Australia) working primarily with medium format photography. Anu interrogates themes of displacement and the diaspora; using her practice as a gateway to understanding her identity as a woman born in India and raised in Australia.Through her work, Anu strives to archive the quotidian expressions of everyday life as an examination of self, family and belonging.
Her photography has been published in the New York Times and Vogue Italia, the Center for Contemporary Photography and recently released a monograph book with Perimeter Editions. We caught up with her to talk about her creative process and how photography transforms the gaze.
What is your first memory of connecting to the process of taking photos?
"It happened when I got my first medium format camera and went to India. with my digital camera i felt very tethered to the end result that would appear immediately at the back of the camera. Using my waist finder film camera allowed me to connect to the world in a different way, I wasn't so consumed with how the picture turned out, I was just exploring my curiosity. It became fun for me. I remember taking a photo of my Nani in a moment when we both woke up from a nap, which became the cover photo of my book Ghar. That's when I knew I was making something special, by locking in these core memories in a soft way that didn't feel too disruptive to the moment."
How has this medium changed the way that you see the world and those around you?
"It's allowed me to listen to my intuition. I'm able to identify what I find interesting and beautiful. This is definitely a practice that I intend to become more attuned to."
Most of your work documents your birthplace of Kavi Nagar in India, how has the process of archiving supported your sense of belonging?
"The process of archiving Kavi Nagar has taken me close to a decade. The physical time that goes into such documentation has meant that I have created my own sense of home and place within India that far exceeds what I would have done by visiting family on an occasional holiday. The inquisition and work of taking pictures has deepened my connection to my birthplace, and I'm so grateful to the medium of photography for that gift."
Your work archives family rituals, can you speak to the sentiment and meaning of this?
"I've always noticed the way my days were punctated in Kavi Nagar by these family rituals. Chai in the morning, cutting up vegetables in the aangan(countyard) for lunch, fruit in the afternoon, walking in the park after that and then maybe and most definitely another chai. I was always in such awe of these gestures of love and care that were so commonplace in our house. Documenting these gestures were essential in archiving my family. It was important for me to elevate these moments to the importance I felt they deserved."
What are your personal rituals of care?
"Making chai for my family at 4pm. I enjoy the process, the steps and timing and the handing over of the chai meaning everyone needs to stop what they're doing and sit together to drink chai, even if it is just for 15 minutes."
How does wellbeing impact your creative process?
"I need to feel calm to listen to my intuition when taking photos. In moments of unease I rush and find it hard to be curious. Space away from imagery from instagram and pinterest is also essential. I can sometimes become consumed in other people's ideas of beauty, making it hard to listen to my own."
You are about to embark on another trip back to India, what are you most excited about?
"Taking a break. I've been working on my book Ghar for my entire 20's. Now I've entered my 30's, with one book under my belt and no pressing projects on the horizon. I'm excited to do nothing, and to not feel guilty about it. Rest is essential."
To see more of Anu’ work visit https://anukumar.com.au/