This photographer's series on India's disappearing cybercafes is a throwback to life before smartphones 

Shruti Chamaria, a photographer and designer has captured a series of photos of objects and spaces that tell you stories of an era of transformation. Cybercafes and photo studios are one among them
A photo of cyber cafe clicked by Shruti during her Cyberia project (Photos: Shruti Chamaria)
A photo of cyber cafe clicked by Shruti during her Cyberia project (Photos: Shruti Chamaria)

Cybercafes are comatose. If the advent of broadband internet didn't do the deed, then smartphones with 4G (or whatever G we migrate to soon) certainly did. So when photographer Shruti Chamaria began a series called Cyberia which was funded by the India Foundation for the Arts last year, we felt a hit of nostalgia.  Shruti explains about the project, "I captured photos of 30 cybercafes that are either working or abandoned and have been replaced by other small businesses. At their peak, cybercafes were all over Bengaluru due to the booming internet usage and the need for playing games, surfing the web and social media. But after the advent of smartphones, this picture has changed. They still exist in different cities but they are fewer in number."

Shruti Chamaria, Photographer

She adds that the results were quite gratifying, "Through this project, I explored the most ignored and invisible infrastructure of cybercafes, that are small and cubical in shape. While we were not able to hold a physical exhibition for these photos, the exhiibition happened online and we showcased our work virtually."

A little before she got involved in documenting and capturing these cybercafes, she also captured photographs for another project called How to sit for the camera. "Photo studios were disappearing faster due to the advent of smartphone cameras and various other reasons. I was curious to understand what the future holds for these photo studios. My interest and focus was to see how fantasy and reality play in these spaces. Besides telling people that the spaces are disappearing, I made the cameraman the subject instead of the visitor. That's why I photographed the cameraman against the backdrop. Because they are the one who give instructions for the photographers on how to sit before the camera, smile and a lot more."

Her work has been shown at the Rotterdam Photo Festival, Athens Photo Festival, the J Book Show – Cork Photo Festival and Indian Foundation for the Arts Currently, Shruti is working on different designer and photography projects which are expected to be out by next year for people to watch. She says, "One must have substantial funding for these projects whether it is our personal funding or a grant from an organisation. It is very tough to get funds for these projects. We have fewer organisations who supports artists or photographers like us with their funds. Though the support is increasing, it is by chance or luck that you get these grants. Hence, we keep writing and developing new ideas. If it doesn't materialise for the funds, then we need to try and find another way."

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