2023 | Pretika Menon & Vamika Jain

Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant for Photography 2023

Grant Recipients


Title of the Project




Sher-Gil Sundaram Arts Foundation is pleased to announce the grantees for the Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant for Photography 2023 — Pretika Menon for her project Dhon (Two) and Vamika Jain for her project I Travel Therefore I Am.

Artist Statement

Dhon (Two) by Pretika Menon is an ongoing photographic project that delves into the concept of home through the lens of image-making and storytelling. Centred around Eugene D’Souza and her family in the village of Moira, North Goa, the project captures the essence of familial bonds and nostalgia in a century-old house.


The journey began with a chance encounter between Menon and Eugene during a walk through the neighbourhood. Drawn to the slower pace of rural life, Menon found herself captivated by Eugene’s home atop a hill, where she resides with her twin daughters and aging mother-in-law. Over time, a deep connection formed, allowing Menon to document their lives authentically. Shot over three years and ongoing, Dhon (Two) is a blend of candid moments and carefully staged scenes, reflecting the duality of documentary and staged imagery. Through traditional mediums such as medium format film photography and printmaking techniques like carbon printing and cyanotype, Menon seeks to evoke a sense of timelessness and nostalgia.


Beyond the personal narrative, the project sheds light on the changing landscape of Moira, where old houses are being replaced by modern structures to cater to urban migrants. Menon’s work serves as a poignant reminder of the irreplaceable heritage embodied in these old houses and the lives intertwined with them.


“There goes the mango trees and the chikoos, the old tea cups and saucers, and the ostrich eggs that an aunt sent from Africa for a wedding, and the family photographs and calendars, and odd nick knacks collected since time immemorial. This fills me with great sadness, and conviction that these incredibly built old houses and the people who come from them are to be documented and made immortal through photography.”


Through Dhon (Two), Menon invites viewers to contemplate the significance of place, memory, and tradition in shaping our identities and sense of belonging. It stands as a testament to the enduring power of home in a rapidly changing world.

Pretika Menon is a photographer based in Goa. She has worked as a photographer and creative director in the fields of fashion and visual-arts for more than a decade.


Pretika has been featured in Proud South, a global index by the Dutch trend forecaster Lidewij Edelkoort on trends in fashion and culture in the Southern Hemisphere. Her work has been published in Kidz Paris 2022, an art book that focuses on 50 young creatives across the globe. The book is curated and art-directed by Raphaëlle Bellanger and Anna Gardère.


She was selected in Condenast’s talent hunt in Mumbai in 2019 to feature her work in Vogue Italia and is a regular contributor to the publication since then. Her work has been featured and published in major fashion publications in India including Vogue India, Harper’s Bazaar, Verve, Grazia, Platform, Say Zine to name a few. In 2022 Pretika participated in a residency supported by Vogue Italia to create her first collection of NFTS on the platform VOICE.


Pretika has received the 2023 PhMuseum Women Photographers Grant. She was selected for the Angkor Wat Photo-Workshop in January 2024 in Siem Reap, Cambodia. She is currently working on a group exhibition for her project titled Dhon (Two).

Artist Statement

I Travel Therefore I am is a visual study of the vicious cycle of aspiration-consumption-validation. Addressing the commodification of our visual and social realities, the project expands on a notion of the photographic, analysing the way we register, document and produce images to remain relevant. The work foregrounds the image-based inundation that surrounds, as well as defines, our experience of popular tourist destinations today. It explores the role of visual content in being the driving force for multiple channels of interaction between tourists and destinations. The work is an inquiry into how constant exposure to images of tourist destinations on popular information platforms fuels our aspirations to create similar visual content so one may validate the vacation and become a participant of the trends.


The work, conceived through seven chapters, is created with an amalgamation of images I have photographed at tourist destinations and found images from different sources- stock image websites, travel and in-flight magazines, Instagram posts of tourists and tourism advertisements. The various chapters collectively aim to question tourist gaze and the constant desire to photograph ‘perfect images’ as tourists.


In Photo Montages, images have been constructed to present critical outlook of the photographs that we aspire to take at tourist destinations. These images draw elements of desire from each destination based on their popularity and engage the viewers with the dilemma of real-unreal. Dream Vacation explores how money exchange and tourism intersect and create worldly illusions of aspirations with visual design and greed. Scouring through travel and in-flight magazines, I have come across advertisements designed to arouse desire to escape one’s daily routine for a ‘paradise-like’ vacation. These advertisements have been scanned to become templates for the form of credit cards.


In Text is Image, words present images to enable imagination of visuals which, owing to mass visual consumption, are already stored in memory. Hence, for these innumerable common images from tourist landscapes, words seem sufficient to form mental images or to reminisce one’s own travels. 

Vamika Jain is an artist and designer working primarily with photography. She pursued Master of Design in Photography from National Institute of Design, Gandhinagar and completed her Bachelor of Architecture from School of Planning and Architecture, Bhopal. As an exchange student, with scholarship from the Goethe-Institut, she attended Hochschule für Grafik und Buchkunst, Leipzig, Germany in 2017.


A mix of photography, text and video, her work explores ontology of the image and space- their forms, representation and hierarchy through the perspective of different human identities amid the evolving trends in politics, media, technology and data society. With her work, she intends to deconstruct the existing forms of visual representation. Vamika is the recipient of Space Studio Baroda’s Artist Grant, Experimenter’s Generator Grant and NID-MNF award for outstanding project rooted in social, cultural and political inquiries and was selected for a mentorship program and grant by VII Academy and Pathshala South Asia Media Institute.


David Campany (Jury Chair) is a curator, writer and educator. He is the author of several books including On Photographs 2020, Indeterminacy: thoughts on time, the image and race(ism) co-written with Stanley Wolukau-Wanambwa 2022, A Handful of Dust 2015, Walker Evans: the magazine work 2014, Photography and Cinema 2008, and Art and Photography 2003. His recent exhibitions include Immersion: Gregory Halpern, Vasantha Yogananthan, Raymond Meeks ICP New York 2023, William Klein: Yes. Photographs, Paintings, Films 1948-2013 ICP New York 2022, and the six-museum Biennale für aktuelle Fotografie, Germany 2020. He teaches at the University of Westminster, London, and is Curator at Large, International Center of Photography, New York. www.davidcampany.com

Madhuban Mitra works primarily with photography, film and video as part of an artist duo with Manas Bhattacharya. She studied English Literature and holds a Ph.D in Cultural Studies. Some of the duo’s recent solo and group exhibitions include Until the End of the World (2023) and Last Evenings on Earth (2019) at Photoink, New Delhi; A Visual Alphabet of Industry, Work and Technology, Fondazione MAST, Bologna (2022); Postdate: Photography and Inherited History in India, San Jose Museum of Art, California and Ulrich Museum of Art, Kansas, USA; and The Great Machine II in Museo Trepat, Tarrega, Spain, where they received the EMBARRAT award. Other awards include Fondazione MAST Photography Grant, Skoda Breakthrough Artist Award and a research residency from Pro Helvetia. Their work is part of the public collections of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art (KNMA), Fondazione MAST, Bologna, and private collections around the world. They also teach courses on moving image and photography as visiting faculty in the Masters Programme at the National Institute of Design (NID), Gandhinagar.

Vidya Shivadas is a curator based in New Delhi. She is the Director of the Foundation for Indian Contemporary Art, a non-profit arts organisation that works in the field of art education and aims to broaden the audience for contemporary Indian art, enhance opportunities for artists, and establish a continuous dialogue between the arts and the public through education and active participation in public art projects. Shivadas has curated a number of exhibitions at the Vadehra Art Gallery since 2005 as well as guest curated exhibitions at Devi Art Foundation, Kiran Nadar Museum of Art and Edinburgh Art Festival. She is the visual arts curator for Serendipity Arts Festival 2023. Shivadas is Visiting Faculty at School of Culture and Creative Expressions, Ambedkar University Delhi since 2013.

Announcement of Grantee: 12 February 2024

Jury Statement

It has become commonplace to open a jury statement with a general diagnosis of the state of photography.  But of course, the state of photography is always crisis, always transition, always under threat, always at a pivotal moment. We can take this for granted. There has been no moment when photography was not troubled, technically, artistically, socially, philosophically.


It is much less commonplace to hear the positive side of the diagnosis. Looking at the submissions for this grant it became very clear that a great deal of exciting and important photographic work is being made in contemporary India. The range of ways in which the image is being engaged is extraordinarily wide and ambitious… despite the permanent crisis.


The age range of the photographers is also wide. We have received submissions from established practitioners with decades of professional experience. We have received submissions from students, recent graduates and young photographers, often entirely self-taught, working far away from the country’s traditional centres of art and culture. We have had submissions from image makers working in well established genres and idioms, and from experimenters finding the form for what they are doing in the midst of doing it.


The purpose of this grant is to give  support to projects which are already showing great potential but are in need of vital help. It’s not a grant to kickstart brand new projects, nor to put the icing on the cake for projects that are already completed. So, what we were looking for, more than anything, was promise.  Those vital signs and green shoots that appear when an original and ambitious direction begins to take form. This is always a delicate moment, when excitement is often tempered by doubt in the face of life’s realities. Will there be time to pursue the work? Will there be resources? Will there be finances? And, just as importantly, in the sometimes dark and lonely days of bringing a project into the world, will there be any voices of support and affirmation? The Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant aims to offer all of these.


To administrate a grant such as this requires a dedicated team. We would like to thank them all for their hard work, which has helped the duties of the jury to run so smoothly.


We would also like to thank all those dedicated image makers who submitted their work. It was a pleasure to see it all, and we wish you well with your projects.


The standard of work we looked at was high, and we deliberated over three days. From a long list of eleven projects, we came down to four, and from these four there are, firstly, two photographers deserving of an honourable mention.


Anupam Diwan, for his beautifully measured and attentive documentation of the town of Tilda. These black and white photographs, slow and absorbing, are the result of a mature and dedicated vision.


Avijit Ghosh, for his experimental documentary response to the precarious lives of people on the islands of Sundarbans. Addressing both the material conditions of the people, and the materiality of photography itself, Avijit Ghosh closes the gap between the image and the world it expresses.


The two winners of this year’s Umrao Singh Sher-Gil Grant are:


Pretika Menon, for her project Dhon (Two), which promises to be a profound and poetic exploration of her relationship with a family she met by chance and the twin sisters at its heart. With a delicate balance of documentary description and gentle surrealism, Pretika Menon’s poetic vision is sure to blossom into something very special


Vamika Jain, for I Travel Therefore I Am, for her wittily subversive engagement with the role of the image in the commodification of our visual culture. We live in strange times, and Vamika Jain’s response, full of absurdist humour, sly montage and satirical words feels like the art these times deserve.