Annu Palakunnathu Matthew,"Red Indian / Brown Indian", from the series An Indian from India, 2001, Archival Computer Print

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew,”Red Indian / Brown Indian”, from the series An Indian from India, 2001, Archival Computer Print

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew

As an immigrant, I am often questioned about where I am “really from.” When I say that I am Indian, I often have to clarify that I am an Indian from India. Not an American-Indian, but rather an Indian-American, South-Asian Indian, East Indian or even an Indian-Indian. It seems strange that all this confusion started because Christopher Columbus thought he had found India and called the native people of America collectively as Indians.

In the series, “An Indian from India”, I look at the other “Indian.” I find similarities in how Nineteenth century photographers of Native Americans looked at what they called the primitive natives, similar to the colonial gaze of the Nineteenth century British photographers working in India. In every culture there is the “other”.

In this portfolio, I play on my own “otherness”, using photographs of Native Americans from the Nineteenth Century, which perpetuated and reinforced stereotypes. The images highlight assimilation, use labels and make many assumptions. I pair these with self-portraits in clothes, poses and environments that mimic these “older” images. The clothes are also “made up”, similar to Edward Curtis’ contrived posing and dressing up of some of his subjects. The final paired images challenge the viewers assumptions of then and now, us and them, exotic and local. This work starts to question what is given credibility, what is patently contrived and how the two are not as far apart as we would like to believe.

Annu Palakunnathu Matthew received a BSc. in Mathematics from the Women’s Christian College in India in 1986 and a MFA from the University of Delaware in 1997. She has been in numerous group shows including “Familiar Relations” at the Center for Photography at Woodstock, Primitive Modernists at John Nichols Gallery  (Santa Paula, CA), OUTRAGEOUS: Spectacular Visual Commerce and its Discontents at the Otis Gallery at Otis College of Art and Design (Los Angeles, CA). Matthew was featured in “Discoveries at the Meeting Place” at FotoFest 2002 (Houston, TX) and her work will appear in Only Skin Deep: Changing Visions of the American Self, a virtual exhibition organized by the International Center for Photography (NYC) in 2003. Matthew has had solo exhibitions including ones at the Center for Photography as an Art Form (Bombay, India), the Houston Center for Photography (Houston, TX), The Press Club of India (New Delhi, India), and is currently having a solo exhibition at the Menschel Gallery at Light Work (Syracuse, NY). She has been the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships including the Rhode Island State Council on the Arts fellowship in photography, the Photography Fellowship from the Houston Center for Photography, the Gunk Foundation, and the En Foco and Heathcote Art Foundation. She has had residencies at Anderson Ranch Art Center (Snowmass Village, CO), Light Work, Visual Studies Workshops (Rochester, NY). Her work can be found in many public collections including the Polaroid Collection (Boston, MA), the DeCordova Museum (Lincoln MA), the Center for Photography as an Art Form, the Museum of Fine Arts (Houston, TX), Light Work, Visual Studies Workshop, and the Center for Photography at Woodstock’s Permanent Print Collection at the Samuel Dorsky Museum of Art at SUNY New Paltz. Matthew lives in Providence, Rhode Island where she is an Associate Professor of Photography at the University of Rhode Island. She was an artist in resident at CPW in June 2001.