Dayanita Singh’s (New Delhi, 1961) relationship with photography began with her family; more specifically through her mother who was also a photographer. Later on, after an encounter with Mary Ellen Mark in Varanasi, she decided to study at the International Center of Photography in New York specializing in photojournalism and documentary photography. In 1989 she returned to India and pointed her camera at some of the marginal realities in her country. Her first important commission—a project on the lives of eunuchs—would pave the way for one of her most iconic works, Myself Mona Ahmed (2001), which incorporated a perspective that incorporated elements of both photojournalism and intimate photography. That same perspective defined her following project, I am as I am, in which she entered the daily life of an ashram for women in Varanasi.
With her intention of not reproducing any exoticizing Indian clichés, Dayanita Singh decided to focus on realities that were closer to her such as the family portraits of Privacy (2003). Progressively, in pieces such as Empty Spaces (2001) and the autobiographical work Chairs (2005), the human figure disappeared from her photographs while she simultaneously examined the concepts of memory and absence. In recent years her work has been characterized by a profound interest in book-objects and the way in which her work is displayed. Rooted in this interest are a series of singular photobooks including Museum Bhavan, hailed as the book of the year by the Paris Photo-Aperture Foundation in 2017.