With great ease: The photography of T. S. Satyan

On the occasion of T. S. Satyan’s birth centenary, this exhibition showcases how Satyan’s work goes beyond traditional photojournalism and reframes him as an artist with individual authorship. His photographic style was marked by an effortless fluidity — his images are not meticulously planned or overly staged; they unfold naturally, reflecting freedom and curiosity.  This describes how Satyan moved with ease, sometimes even unbothered by the conditions of the moment, or possible perception of the photograph. Within his typewritten notes and scribbles on the back of the photographs, we find glimpses of Satyan’s personal archive. These annotations offer us a peek into how the photographer documented and preserved his visual narratives, or even how he took notes for the editors of magazines.

Sugata Srinivasaraju, in an interview with Satyan, says that he had the “amiable casualness of early youth, the creative restlessness of a teenager and the boundless energy of a child.” Satyan took images from his heart that reflect the tenderness in his documentation and the joy of photographing people, inviting us to explore the world of the second half of the twentieth century. He photographed powerful politicians without pomp, soldiers at leisure, women in the workforce and young children in sincere contemplation. 

As a photojournalist, he photographed the smallpox eradication campaign and the awareness drive on medical interventions for blindness, both organised by the World Health Organisation (WHO). Satyan was invited to showcase his work in 1979 at UNICEF’s Year of the Child exhibition, Little People, at the UN General Assembly in New York. In addition to being a staff photographer with the Deccan Herald and Weekly, his work was published in LIFE and TIME magazine, as well as World Health. 

MAP is grateful to the T. S. Satyan Family Trust for gifting its entire archive, which includes over 21,000 prints, negatives, contact sheets, newspaper clippings and more.

Untitled, Agartala, Tripura, 1971, Silver gelatin print PHY.07910, Gifted by the T. S. Satyan Family Trust.

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