Transcultural Attractions: Photographs of an Indian Dancer

Lecture by Ajay Sinha as part of the Sydney Asian Art Series presented at the University of Sydney on 29 May 2018.

In the Spring of 1938, an Indian dancer, Ram Gopal, posed in a variety of fantastical costumes for the American photographer, Carl Van Vechten, in New York City. Studying the resulting series of 100 remarkable, large-size photographs, the lecture builds an illustrated story of mutual fascination and transcultural exchanges triggered by the camera placed between the dancer and the photographer during the photoshoot.


Ajay Sinha is Professor of Art History, Asian Studies, and Film Studies programs at Mount Holyoke College, U.S.A. As a specialist of South Asian visual and material culture, his research areas include the history of ancient religious architecture, as well as modern and contemporary art, photography and film in India. His scholarship and teaching are informed by post-colonial theories, perspectives on global modernities, as well as critical media and technology studies. Publications include Imagining Architects: Creativity in Indian Temple Architecture (2000), and a volume of essays on Indian film, co-edited with Raminder Kaur, titled Bollyworld: Popular Indian Cinema through a Transnational Lens (2005). His current, book-length work relates to transcultural photography, and tells a story of interactions between the cultural worlds of India and the U.S.A. documented in a set of over 100 photographs of an Indian dancer, Ram Gopal, who posed for an American photographer, Carl Van Vechten, in New York City in 1938.



This lecture was part of the 2018 Sydney Asian Art Series. Learn more about the series here!

The Sydney Asian Art Series is presented by the University of Sydney’s China Studies Centre, The Power Institute, and VisAsia, with support from the Art Gallery of New South Wales and Sydney Ideas.