The project combines research into the origins of the photos, which date back to 1945, with a collaborative project with Indian artists, using the photos as springboards for the creation of new work. Teller and his partner in the project, his wife, artist Jerry Zbiral, will spend four months based in Kolkata, starting mid-November.
In 2004, students in Teller’s “Anthropology and Photography” (Art 350) course at Lake Forest conducted basic research and determined that the photographer’s base may have been in the area of Kharagpur, in West Bengal. Area experts later corroborated this information, along with the approximate age of the photographs.
The photographs were featured in an exhibit at the College, Clouds of Fantasy, Pellets of Information (the title is based on Susan Sontag’s characterization of the limits of photography). Some of the locations are identified and specialists have provided some ethnographic information, but most images are still a mystery. The project hopes to answer some of the many questions raised by these enigmatic photos.
The research project is based on a box of anonymous photos discovered at an estate sale two decades ago.