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PHOTOGRAPHS BY SUNIL JANAHKalart Gallery, 855 Sansome St., S.F., (415) 693-9727.
Clockwise from top left:
In 1947, rivers of people crossed a point of no return across arbitrary boundary lines between India and Pakistan - both carved out of what was British India. The events that led to this historic passage - reviled even at that time and indefensible in hindsight - are the core subject of a show, "Sunil Janah: Inside India, 1940-1975, Rare Images by India's Legendary Photographer," at the KalArt Gallery in San Francisco, Sept. 14 through Oct. 12.
Disturbing images of bullet-ridden bodies alongside classical portraits of philosophers, Indian leaders, dancers and temples frame a complex image of India.
The nonviolent resolve of Mahatma Gandhi's followers, the ferocity of the armed British Indian police, and famines - the result of diverting grain to the British war effort - were all documented by Janah (now 82, and living in London), who for a while collaborated with Margaret Bourke-White, Life magazine's chronicler based in India. Less formal in style, Janah often took his images alongside Bourke-White, capitalizing on her superior flash equipment.
But his images, whether political or studies of tribal communities, have a different cast than other journalists': "I couldn't align myself with puritanism of any kind. I only documented, from afar, what happened," says Janah.
- Zahid Sardar