Clare Arni (b. 1962)
A British photographer living and working in India for over three decades, Clare Arni is best known for a body of work that spans multiple genres, from architectural and travel photography to social and cultural documentation.
Arni was born in Scotland to British parents. When she was six, her family moved to the city of Madurai in Tamil Nadu, where her father joined a textile company. She returned to England to finish her schooling and university education, receiving an undergraduate degree in history from the University of Stirling in 1984. From the age of 22, she began photographing professionally, initially focusing on fashion photography before turning towards architectural photography.
Over the course of her career, Arni has photographed diverse landscapes/spaces across India, such as the architecture of Varanasi, the palaces of the Deccan, the excavations at Hampi, and the length of the river Kaveri. She has also photographed the lives of marginalised communities in some of the remotest regions of the country I, as well as the expanse of urban experience: documenting street scenes, and people at work in particular. Her photographs aim to preserve through the act of photography the architectural heritage, cultural arts and disappearing professions of India. In 2000, she teamed up with photographer and visual artist Pushpamala N on a four year-long project called Native Women of South India: Manners and Customs that led to the creation of over 250 images. Working in the genre of photo-performance, the artists sought to reproduce “types” of women that were present in visual culture to comment on and interrogate popular practices of female representation. A wealth of visual material served as their resource: miniature paintings, calendar art, ethnographic photography, and film stills.
Arni has published several photobooks, including Eternal Kaveri: Historical Sites Along South India’s Greatest River (1999), Silent Splendour: Palaces of the Deccan, and Kanara, a Land Apart: the Artistic Heritage of Coastal Karnataka (2012) with reputed publishing houses such as Phaidon, Thames and Hudson. Her work has also been published in magazines such as Abitare, Tatler, Conde Nast and Wallpaper among others.
Arni’s body of work has been widely exhibited in private galleries and cultural institutions including TARQ, Mumbai Dakshinachitra Museum, Chennai; Museum of Goa; Grosvenor Vadehra, London, UK; and Essl Museum, Vienna, Austria among others. Her work is part of permanent collections of the Saatchi Gallery, London; the Freer Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington DC, USA; and the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia.
At the time of writing, Arni lives and works in Bengaluru.
“A history in the works.” New Indian Express, December 11, 2011. https://www.newindianexpress.com/magazine/2011/dec/11/a-history-in-the-works-319242.html
“Clare Arni”. TARQ. https://www.tarq.in/artist/clare-arni/
Dubey, Tanvi. 2015. “Documenting India’s women and cultural heritage through her camera lens: Clare Arni.” Yourstory, January 22, 2015. https://yourstory.com/2015/01/clare-arni-photography.
Gaskell, Nathaniel, and Diva Gujral. Photography in India: A Visual History from the 1850s to the Present. Prestel, 2018.