Photography for me is an art form, which helps me to express and showcase my viewpoint, my observations and my experiences. My photographs reflect what I see, what I hear, what I feel through a particular moment in time. My interest in small things of life, which are often overlooked by people, take an abstract form with my camera. The pleasure I take in the play of light and shadow becomes interwoven with abstract visualisation of a scene in front of me. Black and white photography is my first love, and yet I am delighted to embrace the use of colour to enhance my point of view when needed.
I was born in to a family who worked for a clothing and textile company, which grew my knowledge and appreciation for the beauty of hand-woven textiles. My close contact and frequent discussions with handloom weavers made me aware of their personal experiences and challenges within the industry: How this art form is slowly dying due to general apathy and lack of awareness among people at large. Changing fashions and preferences also play part in slow demise of this wonderful tradition. My interest in this situation led me to focus on the subject of weaving and the handloom – Haathshaal – for a “photo story”. This publication is a means to generate awareness about the art of handloom weaving, which we need to preserve. I intend to celebrate the beauty and intricacy of the process of handloom weaving through my photos.
Each time I visit handloom weaver, I am amazed by the intricate weaves created by his or her skilful hands and imagination. It is a sheer poetry in motion.
Mahatma Gandhi, a great advocate of hand-spinning was a man behind Khadi – a fabric of freedom – a fabric which is hand-spun as well as hand-woven. Gandhi gave a momentum to “swadeshi” movement in 1921, when he started his non-cooperation movement. He launched a campaign to boycott foreign made goods and to promote indigenous goods. As part of this, he asked people to spin and weave fabrics for their own use, thereby affecting the business of British textile mills. Women of India took up the cause with great zeal, embracing spinning, weaving and other activities related to fabric weaving and cloth making to support the movement. Women participation in handloom industry grew manifold.Today women continue as a major workforce in handloom industry. Many women weavers look after the home and work at the loom with equal ease. Unfortunately, they are paid less for their work in the handloom industry compared to men who also do the same jobs.
Today, few pockets of khadi and handloom weaving survive across India. They provide livelihood for millions. If sustained efforts are made, it could prove to be an earning opportunity for many more millions. Women, who have become self reliant through their engagement with this industry may loose out more if the tradition is not properly promoted and appreciated or cultivated. women of India, in particular, deserve the recognition for their efforts in the development of the art of handloom weaving.
Mahatma Gandhi espoused Khadi- hand-spun and hand-woven fabric – as an ideology for self reliance for millions of villagers of India.
Mahatma Gandhi’s spartan workplace with his beloved charkha by his side.
Charkha or Gandhian Charkha as it is known became a symbol for self reliance as well as self governance during the freedom movement.
Mahatma Gandhi innovated this Box or Book Charkha for greater speed and control. Today it has replaced generic Gandhi Charkha for ease of use and transportation.
A field of cotton
As if the moon
– Matsuo Basho
Old ladies in their traditional attire are hand spinning yarn with traditional Gandhi Charkha. Hardly few practitioners of this art survive now.
For students of university established by Mahatma Gandhi in Ahmedabad, hand spinning on Book charkha is a daily ritual. Once out of the university they pass this knowledge to people of their villages to make them self reliant.
Women in remote corner of central India, are reeling the yarn.
Traditional Winding reel.
Winding the yarn after dyeing, using traditional winding reel.
Corn of yarn ready for winding.
Hand winding of yarn from the cone preparing yarn for dyeing.
Woman getting the yarn hanks ready for dyeing.
Dyed yarn is hanging in the sun for natural drying.
Colourful yarns are stored and ready for weaving.
Colourful yarns are ready on traditional reel for further process.
Arranging yarns. Use of hands is an integral part of entire process.
Warping in progress.
Warp is ready on the loom.
Preparing pirn from the cone.
Pirn are ready for use.
Textures of Handloom.
Warp, Weft, Reed and textures.
How intensely he is concentrating on his work! Peeping through warp threads.
Arranging warp threads.
Not only hands, but legs need to move with perfect co-ordination.
Master at work.
Washed fabric is hanging in the sun. Softness, textures of handwoven fabric is hard to match by machine woven fabric.
2010: The year will forever remain etched in the memory of Sonali Dalal, a year in which she started her journey as a photo artist. Suddenly she discovered through the medium a way to explore the beauty all around: in people, in nature, in objects, in small thing of life. Her camera became vehicle to express and embody certain key experiences of her world. As her vision expanded, the art of photography, she felt, became pure meditation. Although Dalal explores other genres of photography, she has developed an original distinctive approach to abstract photography, which remains her preferred way of working.
2012: Chiaroscuro – This exhibition showcased her fascination with play of light and shadow.
2014: Point of View – This exhibition showcased Dalal’s work with European artists, with a focus on the artist’s studio. This exhibition was
sponsored by “Lalitkala Academy”.
2016: “Cloth” – Dalal collaborated with British artist Lisa Milroy, exhibiting her photos documenting Milroy’s work during her sojourn at
2015: “Melange” – Dalal’s work was included in a group exhibition as a prominent women photographer of her state.
2016: “100 Clicks” – Hutheesing Visual Art Center, Ahmedabad. Dalal’s work was included in a prestigious group exhibition as a talent to watch
2017: Petits Formats – She had her first international group show at Art Galerie Monod Paris XV
2012: Awarded the Gold Medal (Honourable Mention) at The 73rd Photographic Salon of Japan for her picture “Curious”. 2015: Awarded Gold Medal (Honourable Mention) at The 76th Photographic Salon of Japan for her picture “Smile of Optimism”.
Sonali Dalal’s photos have been published in Indian as well as in international magazines, and have featured on magazine covers. Her photographs have been used to illustrate book covers of eminent poets of India. She has received commissions from prestigious fashion and clothing designers to contribute to their creative departments.
Sonali is regularly invited by the state university of Gujarat (India) to deliver lectures to students of journalism on her practice and her artistic philosophy. Her work is held in many private collections nationally and internationally.
Sonali also writes poetry, and is a published poet. She lives in Ahmedabad, a city in Gujarat known as the “Manchester of India” due to its long history of cotton mills and textile production. Sonali is also a Director in a clothing and textile company.