Recognizing the need to enable Indian photographers to produce and share their work in their lifetime, the Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation has pledged an annual photography grant of INR 5,00,000 in Umrao Singh Sher-Gil's name to encourage independent voices in photography.

Umrao Singh Sher-Gil's (1870-1954) relationship with photography in his lifetime was a private affair - his principal subjects being his family and himself. He tended to be overshadowed by the emblematic presence of his daughter and artist, Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941). It was in 2007 that Umrao Singh was recognised as a photographer of considerable importance. His self-portraits span almost sixty years and make up a unique archive. He is now regarded as a pioneering figure of the mise-en-scéne or staged photography in India.

Established in 2015, the Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant for Photography will recognise a photographer's commitment to the 'staged' or 'constructed' image. Documentary photography projects using the idiom of the staged or constructed image will also be considered.

There is a distinction, albeit a fine one, between the 'staged' and the 'constructed' image. Regardless, both genres reflect on the transformative nature of the photograph in their relationship to reality.

The grant is intended to assist photographers who have started a project and need financial help to complete their work.

Eligibility Criteria

  • The grant is for Indian nationals who reside in India.

  • There is no age limit for applicants to the grant.

  • Individual photographers and collaborative projects can apply.

  • The grant is for a photographer already working on a project. Therefore, the application must include photographic prints from the project for which financial support is needed.
    See under Application Process.

  • Applicants must not hold any other fellowship/grant for the proposed project when applying.

  • Applicants must confirm in writing the proposed project has not been exhibited in any commercial gallery or by a commercial gallery in India or abroad. Projects which have been exhibited will not be considered. Exposure of works from the proposed project across social media platforms is acceptable.


Umrao Singh Sher-Gil, eldest son of Raja Surat Singh of Majithia, was born into the landed aristocracy of the Punjab. While his younger brother, Sunder Singh, was an industrialist and politician, Umrao Singh opted for the more contemplative life of a scholar. He spent a lifetime in the pursuit of knowledge; he was a Sanskrit and Persian scholar, and was interested in the philosophy of religion. He had a long-standing friendship with the poet Mohammed Iqbal and greatly admired the Russian humanist Leo Tolstoy. He was also fascinated by astronomy, loved carpentry and calligraphy, practised yoga, and had an abiding passion for photography.

Umrao Singh's older daughter, Amrita Sher-Gil (1913-1941), was a pioneering artist and an emblematic figure in the history of pictorial modernism in India. Her talent, her beauty, her flamboyant personality, her cosmopolitan outlook and her sexual emancipation have made her something of a legend. Her presence was framed in a more literal sense by the photographic lens of her father. A serious amateur photographer, Umrao Singh focussed solely on his family and himself, unaware that he was pioneering the genre of the mise-en-scéne that would be renewed by Indian photographers half a century later.

Umrao Singh's preoccupation with photography was an intense and private affair. He printed his negatives, experimenting with toning formulae that master printers would employ. Over 2,500 vintage prints along with glass plates and film negatives have since survived. In 2001, his grandson, the artist Vivan Sundaram, made digital photomontages using Umrao Singh's self-portraits and family portraits to create fictional narratives, and presented them as Retake of Amrita. In 2007, the first retrospective exhibition of Umrao Singh Sher-Gil's vintage and modern prints (from glass plates and film negatives) was held at the Rencontres d'Arles photography festival in France and attracted critical attention across the globe. In 2008, this retrospective was exhibited at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi and Mumbai, India, in conjunction with a published monograph. A reclusive man, about whom little is still known, was finally acknowledged as a pioneering figure of the mise-en-scéne in Indian photography.


Application Form

Application forms can be downloaded from here. There is no application fee. If you need any clarification or information about the Application Process, please email

Please use block/capital letters to fill in the application form and do not forget to sign the document. The filled-in application form should be accompanied by the following:

Written Proposal

Clarity of thought about the project will be evaluated during the jury process. The written proposal comprises of the following. Please submit 3 printed copies of each of these documents.

1. Artist Statement:

  • The Artist Statement should be concise and not exceed 500 words.

  • The applicant should articulate their intentions and define the scope of the project.

  • The applicant should clearly mention the stage their project has reached and why it needs financial support to conclude it.
    This grant is for a work-in-progress project only.

  • The applicant should highlight their efforts and objectives towards the realizing the project.

  • The applicant must mention the exposure, if at all, this project has received across social media platforms and online magazines.

2. Biography of the Applicant (Click here)

3. Budget Plan The proposed project has to completed within 18 months and a comprehensive budget detailing expenditure has to be submitted. (Click here)

Photographic Prints with Captions/Titles

Applicants must demonstrate evidence of their photographic ability by submitting 10 to 15 photographic prints, no larger than 8 x 12 inches each. Digital submissions/images will not be considered.

The photographic prints must be from the project for which the application is made. Submission of any other prints will make the grant application ineligible.

Applicants must submit a separate document that contains the following information about each image: caption/title, location, date.


Photographic Prints

The photographic prints must be labelled using a sticker on the reverse. The labels must carry the following information:

Name of applicant; Working Title of Project; Caption/Title of Photographic Print; Location; Date; Serial number/Order of sequence.


Name of applicant: Prajakta Potnis

Working Title of Project: When The Wind Blows

Caption/Title of Photographic Print: Untitled

Location: Mumbai

Date: 2015

Serial number/Order of sequence: 01


All written documents must be submitted in typed format (not handwritten) on A4 sheets of paper.

Please send the application form and all submissions to:

Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation
c/o Vivan Sundaram
3/9 Shanti Niketan (First Floor)
New Delhi 110021

No material will be returned unless accompanied by a self-addressed envelope with return postage.

SSAF is not responsible for loss of or damage to any submitted material.

The deadline for receipt of the completed application form and all submissions for the 2017 Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant for Photography is 12 December, 2017.



SSAF will independently administer the grant and jury process.

SSAF will invite a three-member jury every year, which will include an international member of the photography fraternity.

The jury process will last three days. During the first two days, the jury will review all the applications and proposals, and shortlist 3 finalists - primarily on the basis of the substantive and intellectual merit of their project proposals. On the third day, the jury will review the 3 finalists and select the grant recipient, after weighing both the merit and needs of the project.

The grantee's name will be announced on 22 December, 2017 at a reception organized by the SSAF. The announcement will be shared via email and posted on the SSAF website.

JURY 2018

The members of the jury for the 2018 Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant for Photography are: Sabeena Gadihoke, Sanjeev Saith and Yasufumi Nakamori (Chair).

Sabeena Gadihoke is a professor in Video and TV Production and started to teach at the AJK MCRC in 1990. She has has been an independent documentary filmmaker and cameraperson with over twenty years of experience. Her film Three Women and a Camera won awards at the Film South Asia at Kathmandu (1999) and at the Mumbai International Film Festival (2000) and she has shot numerous documentaries as a camerawoman including the much circulated Tales of the Night Fairies (Shohini Ghosh, 2002).

Gadihoke is also a photo historian and curator. She has written extensively on Indian photography and is the author of Camera Chronicles of Homai Vyarawalla (Mapin/Parzor Foundation, 2006, 2010). She has published in national and international journals and books and her more recent publications focus on documentary studies, female stardom and photo history. She has delivered talks and presented papers at many international art colleges and universities.

Gadihoke's curatorial projects include, Light Works, a retrospective of photographs by Jitendra Arya at National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai (2017), Inner and Outer Worlds: The Many Lives of Homai Vyarawalla at Sridharani Art Gallery (2015) and at National Gallery of Modern Art, Mumbai (2015). She curated a retrospective exhibition on Homai Vyarawalla at the National Gallery of Modern Art in Delhi, Bombay and Bangalore during 2010-11 and co-curated an exhibition on photographer Kulwant Roy at the Indira Gandhi National Centre for the Arts, Delhi (2008).

Sanjeev Saith has been associated with photography for the past 40 years, initially as an active photographer till 2002, and thereafter as an editor of books, monographs and exhibitions.

His publications as Editor/Photo-Editor include Ronny Sen's End of Time (Nazar, 2017), Amit Pasricha's India at Home (Panoramic, 2016), Kanu Gandhi's Kanu's Gandhi (Nazar, 2015), Arvind Hoon's Unsettled Waters (Face North, 2014), Adil Hasan's When Abba Was Ill (Nazar, 2014), Vicky Roy's Home Street Home (Nazar, 2013), Mahesh Nair's Iron Fist, Velvet Glove (Cinnamon Teal, 2011), Prashant Panjiar's Pan India (Tasveer, 2009), Prashant Panjiar's King, Commoner, Citizen (India Picture, 2007), and Sonia Gandhi's Rajiv (Penguin Viking, 1992).

Sanjeev began taking pictures while studying at St Stephen's College and Delhi School of Economics where he gained a Master's degree, his interest in photography emerging from his passion for climbing in the Himalaya. As a cameraman on the Indian Everest Expedition in 1984 he shot the documentary film which received the National Award.

A hobby grew into a profession and he began to freelance in travel, development and documentary photography, though it was the Indian street that occupied his evolving idiom. His personal work was collected by the National Gallery of Modern Art, New Delhi, the Museum of Modern Art, New York, and Art Heritage, New Delhi among others. He has also exhibited at the Asian Arts Museum, San Francisco, the Photographers' Gallery, London, and the Theatre Saint Gervais, Geneva.

He has lectured and conducted workshops at many institutions across India, most notably at the Lal Bahadur Shastri Academy of Indian Administration, Mussoorie.

Yasufumi Nakamori (Jury Chair) joined the The Minneapolis Institute of Art as the Curator of Photography in May 2016 and oversees the museum's collections of photography, video, and other time-based media. A native of Osaka, Japan, he earned a JD from the University of Wisconsin Law School and practiced law in New York City and Tokyo for seven years. After the galvanizing shock of 9/11, he embarked on a study of modern and contemporary art, earning his MA from Hunter College of the City University of New York and his PhD from Cornell University. Prior to joining MIA, he was the associate curator of photography at the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, where in eight years he organized a dozen exhibitions and brought approximately 700 photographs into the collection. His exhibitions and books include Katsura: Picturing Modernism in Japanese Architecture, Photographs by Ishimoto Yasuhiro (2010), which received the 2011 Alfred H. Barr Jr. Award for Smaller Museums, Collections, Libraries and Exhibitions from the College Art Association, and For a New World to Come: Experiments in Japanese Art and Photography, 1968-1979 (2015). An expert in post-1945 global art and photography, he has taught East Asian modern and contemporary art and architecture at Rice University and Hunter College and spoken on the subject at universities and symposia in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

The Jury Chair is supported by the Japan Foundation, New Delhi


Upon being informed that he/she has been selected to receive the grant, the grant recipient must confirm in writing that the proposed photography project is an ongoing project, and that it has not received any other grants/awards in the past. While this is a material condition of the application process itself, this additional confirmation in writing is expected by the SSAF.

The grant recipient must agree to complete his/her project within 18 months of receiving the first instalment of the grant. The grant will be provided in instalments, based on the submission of a budget.

The grant recipient must agree to have his/her project monitored/reviewed by the SSAF or its representative/s periodically.

On completion of the project, the grant recipient will provide SSAF with 10 archival edition prints along with their digital files. The prints and their digital files will be archived for public viewing in the years to come. The grant recipient will also give permission to SSAF to reproduce the images for publicity and promotional use.