Saturday, October 20, 2007

Poster Art From India and Urban Camouflage in Japan

Poster Art from India

For as long as I can remember colorful posters have been part and parcel of India's cultural landscape.

Educational posters:

When I was in school, educational posters/charts were as much a part of the classroom as the blackboard and often they were used to give students lessons in a variety of subjects from the important (Alphabet) to the instructional (how to tie bandages) to the spiritually uplifting (Moral Stories) to the sweetly old-fashioned (An ideal boy) . But no matter the lesson, we loved the posters because they were vibrant, bold, colorful and gave the otherwise dull classroom such a lift. Looking back I realized many of those charts defied logic and would cause much merriment and scorn if used in classrooms today, but I feel so affectionate towards them.

Chart No. 64 (An Ideal Boy: Good Habits)
(click on the picture for more detail)

(please note the ideal boy strolls with his ideal girl before he brushes his teeth or has his bath, ugh!)

Oh, my, lots to learn here!

To read more on educational posters from India treat yourself to Tara
Publishers "An Ideal Boy: Charts From India" by Sirish Rao , V. Geetha and Gita Wolf

Synopsis: Vibrantly colored educational charts which are cheaply printed and widely distributed are one of the most interesting examples of popular art in India. Whether dealing with natural history, religion, personal hygiene or first aid, their graphic style speaks of an inquisitive and outward-looking world view.

Bollywood Posters:

The most commonly seen posters in India are Bollywood posters. Besides the huge billboards that grace the skyline of Bombay, Madras and other big cities in India, you will find that every inch of public wall space is also taken up with gaudy pictures of Bollywood stars and starlets, making for very colorful city streets.
Some of the big billboards...a common site in any Indian city

Even the auto rickshaws get into the act. This one sports a picture of the actress Kajol.

When I was growing up, Bollywood posters were always hand painted but with today's technology it is a dying art indeed.
(A hand-painted print from the '70's)

Posters of the Indian Pantheon:

This post on the poster art of India would not be complete without mentioning the posters of gods and goddesses. Religion is integral to Indian life. Much of their social life, dietary habits and milestones are tied into religion. Pictures of Hindu deities can be found in every place of work, worship and residence and even on the roads (pic below)
A small tea stall owner has plastered his walls with religious art

These paintings certainly provide some color to the otherwise drab walls

(all pictures courtesy Metroblogging Bombay)

For more on Indian graphics, pick up "Graphicswallah" by Keith Lovegrove

Synopsis:A sourcebook for designers and those fascinated by Indian culture. Lovegrove has selected the most exciting graphic work - ranging from the vernacular graphics of the humble signwriter to the advertisements of blue-chip agencies - to reflect the religious, political and cultural diversity of India.


Urban Camouflage

What would you do if you were being followed? Confront your stalker? Run? Hide? I'd probably choose the latter, but some Japanese designers have a solution that is far more innovative, they sell disguises made from cloth that can be hidden on one's person. The disguises take many forms, the most popular being the "vending machine". When feeling threatened, all the user has to do is to behind the sheet, printed with an actual-size photo of a vending machine.

From the NYTimes:

"...The devices' creators argue that Japan's ideas about crime prevention are a product of deeper cultural differences. While Americans want to protect themselves from criminals, or even strike back, the creators say many Japanese favor camouflage and deception, reflecting a culture that abhors self-assertion, even in self-defense.

"It is just easier for Japanese to hide," Ms. Tsukioka said. "Making a scene would be too embarrassing." She said her vending machine disguise was inspired by a trick used by the ancient ninja, who cloaked themselves in black blankets at night."


karmic said...

Wow Lotus! I loved this post, this brought forth so many memories!!! And you are so right these colorful posters are such an integral part of the cultural scape.

I remember our school having those "good habits" posters. They seem dated but there is a charm to them I have to say. And there is hardly a town, village or city without "philum" or film posters and those of gods and goddesses! The synopsis of each poster type is very informative too.

And it is sad that hand painted posters are a dying art. India's most well known painter M.F.Husain used to paint movie posters before he became famous for his art.

I can't recall where I heard this but someone once said one of the first things that strikes you about India are the rich vibrant colors. And that is so true for every time I visit I am reminded of that, it is a real visual treat!

And those Japanese are surely quirky! I loved some of the others mentioned in the NYTimes piece as well but the one with the vending machine is by far the best!

And I absolutely loved the new header!!!

Thank you for another wonderful post, this one brought forth a host of "colorful" memories!

Unknown said...

I always find your posts so fascinating! I'm learning a lot about other cultures. The artwork is gorgeous with all the colors. And the Coke machine is hilarious.

Happy Reader said...

Wow!! What a colorful and lovely post!! Those educational posters brought back memories of my school days.

Its really sad that the hand-painted poster art is becoming obsolete! They look so adorable. And, the movie posters are just ubiquitous these days! Speaking of which reminds me, Have you watched "Chak De" yet? I heard some good reviews about it.

Urban Camouflage piece was very interesting. Man, these Japenese people are so innovative! I love some of their creative inventions. You can find some here

And your new header is lovely!

darkorpheus said...

I'm overwhelmed by the posters and the rich colours.

The Urban Camouflage is making me so "huh"? Is this really representative of the Japanese?

tanabata said...

LOL about the Urban Camouflage! I can totally believe it, they do tend to hate any kind of confrontation.

I love your new blog header! Just as colourful and fun as the posters you mentioned in this post! :)

Unknown said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Um Naief said...

love this post! i can remember, back in the day, that we had posters in school as well. many of what i see here, we had as well... and i also loved them.

wow... india really does love their stars. i'm not quite sure what causes that magic... but it isn't quite the same in hollywood. maybe long ago you'd find this, but not anymore. now, you just have website after website w/ all the latest gossip!

i really like the posters of the gods and goddesses... it makes the area beautiful. even the posters of the bollywood stars lights up the walls...

is that true about japanese ppl getting such to hide from ppl? strange but smart as well. they never cease to amaze me w/ all the things they come up with!

Anonymous said...

What a beautiful colorful post. You never cease to amaze me with all the wonderful ideas you have......the posters are indeed magical, all those Bollywood stars, ...heaven.....I loved the good habits poster, too bad they are no longer used......Thank you for a beautiful colorful start to my Sunday...Hugs

Gentle Reader said...

I love this post! The posters are amazing. I love the Bollywood posters especially. And that last bit about the Japanese vending machine disguise is funny and fascinating. I want that disguise as my Halloween costume this year!

Read@Peace said...

Perfect look for the perfect blog.
Love every stunning bit of it.

Lotus Reads said...

Hi, Sanjay!

I can't recall where I heard this but someone once said one of the first things that strikes you about India are the rich vibrant colors. And that is so true for every time I visit I am reminded of that, it is a real visual treat!

You are so right! When I lived in India I took those colors for granted but on my first visit back home (after a gap of two years in Canada) I was completely dazzled by how bright, vibrant and energetic those colors were!

I didn't know MF Husain started his career as a movie poster artist, wow!

And I'm glad you like the header, actually I should say "thank you" for helping me put it all together. You've been such a great help, couldn't it have done it without you!

Lotus Reads said...

@Breeni ~ You're so welcome. By stopping here to let me know you enjoy these posts you encourage me to keep sharing! Thank you!

@Chitts ~ lol, what a great site you pointed me to! I definitely need to get my hands on one of those chopsticks that have a little fan attached to it!

Yes, I do miss seeing those hand-painted film posters. They went out of style in Bombay a long while back but I think one could still see some in Madras until a few years ago. They are a collector's item now...wish I had thought to put some away when they were as common as flies! :)

@Dark Orpheus ~ Thank you! Yes, the Japanese are an innovative lot, however, I hardly see the need for camouflage, I don't think their crime rates are very high.

Beenzzz said...

Wonderful post! I have seen the ideal boy chart before in a modern India class. I found it a bit...well, nauseating. You're right about the teeth brushing, LOL. A professor of mine tried to find the poster for the ideal girl and I guess he couldn't. I'll check out your link and see what I come up with.
I remember seeing all the Bollywood posters in India. They were indeed very colorful. There were a lot of iPod posters too!!!! Oh, and the tea pulling is so amazing! Sorry, if I'm rambling. I'm a bit lagged from the trip. :)

Lotus Reads said...

@Nat ~ It was fascinating to me how the Japanese nature is reflected in their innovations, I suppose that is true of any society/culture. All set to travel home?

@Umm Naief ~ Happy to see you here! Yes, the street art really does add so much color. Wish we had more of that here, too. It would help, especially around winter time!

@Sylvia ~ Thank you! So glad you enjoyed the post. Yes, I love the colors too. India is a photographer's delight!

@Gentle Reader ~ Oh my gosh, why didn't I think of that, you're right, it's the perfect costume for Halloween! :)

@Deepika ~ You're the sweetest, thank you! I have to say I really love the new header too...I had a lot of help with it though.

@Beenzzz ~ An ideal girl poster, hmmmm, come to think of it, I haven't seen one either! Maybe we girls don't need to be taught any of that...we're fantastic just as we are! ;)

How was New York?

Lotus Reads said...

@Chitts ~ Forgot to answer your question on "Chak De India", yes, I saw it a couple of weeks ago and loved it! What did you think?

Radha said...

i just love how everything in India is so colourful & vibrant! :)

sharanya said...

Great post, Lotus! :)

Happy Reader said...

Lotus, Haven't watched 'Chak De' yet. May be this weekend...

FH said...

What a fun post!! I didn't check my blog roll yesterday, was busy cooking. Look what I would have missed!:))
Loved the Ideal boy!! Oh boy!!:D

Unknown said...

The UK government is heavily into this kind of advertising; not so much about personal hygiene, but more about socially-desirable habits (don't litter, drive defensively, etc.). The Government has hinted that it plans a more ambitious campaign, more akin to the kind of "social indoctrination" (I'm not using the phrase pejoratively)that has characterized public education in the US since the 1960s. I'm really looking forward to some unintentionally-hilarious productions in the infamous "Reefer Madness" vein!

Great post, Lotus!

Anonymous said...

Hi Lotus - I was organizing my bookshelf yesterday (after our move) and rediscovered Barry Dawson's STREET GRAPHICS INDIA (1999, Thames and Hudson Ltd. London). It features over 150 photographs of "street furniture, architecture, transport, billboards, posters and packaging" taken by Dawson during his India travels. I was excited to see your post just after I had finished flipping through this again!

Lotus Reads said...

@Radha ~ Couldn't agree more!

@Sharanya ~ Thank you, glad you enjoyed it!

@Chitts ~ You're in for a treat! It's one of those feel-good movies, the kind that make you believe there is nothing you cannot do if you only put your mind to it and your heart in it.

Lotus Reads said...

@Asha ~ Thank you for checking your blogroll today! :)

@Brian ~ You'll have to let me know when the new campaign is launched...I know these ads are not meant to be entertaining but entertain they do and I love them!

@Sandhya ~ What a great find, this looks like a wonderful book indeed! I am going to have to add it to my collection, thanks so much!

Olivia said...

Oh my gosh! I want my very own auto rickshaw now, it is soooo cute!

I don't know what to say about the vending machine sounds a bit like something from a CIA spoof movie!

Parth said...

Too cool. Took me back to all the garish beauty of movie posters. Do you know that M.F. Hussain started off painting movie posters?

Lisa Johnson said...

I love your new header! I think we must get bored with our headers around the same time. I'm thinking of doing a new one too! ; )

Oh and I hate to think of some of the wounds that require those bandages! It is a good thing to know about. I spent all last night in the ER with my brother, because he burned his hand. I watched the doctors doing all kinds of bandaging on him. : (

Lotus Reads said...

@Olivia ~ If you like how the autorickshaw has been decked out in Bollywood colors you should see the trucks!!! :)

@Parth ~ lol, true, they are garish, but how I miss them! Yes, Sanjay mentioned the bit about MF Hussain being a poster artist. The poster work he did must be worth quite a bit now, who knew huh?

@Anali ~ Thank you, thank you, glad you like it, I look forward to seeing your new blog dress :)

Ouch,your poor brother, I hate burns. I work in the ER of our local hospital and I can stomach most things but not burns

Tara said...

I love this post! The posters are all so colorful- I especially like the religious ones. I'm enjoying your new picture at the top as well, cannot remember what to call it!

Indu M said...

Hi Lotus, reposting my comment :-)

Love the new look of your blog. And I simply loved your post on Indian poster art.

I don't remember ideal boy posters in my school, but I do remember poems and lessons on 'Acchi aadten' :-)

It is is a good thing that someone is taking the effort to collect and preserve these posters, as they have practically become obsolete. Keith Lovegrove's book sounds interesting.

Yesterday I was reading a similar article in Outlook on the different kinds of Matchbox art - I did not know that so many kinds of prints existed.
The Vending machine camouflage sure sounds funny :-)

Happy Dusshera, albeit belated!

ML said...

The coke machine cracked me up! What great pictures, Lotus.

Love your new header :)

J said...

Beautiful pictures! I saw the coke machine thing in the newspaper the other day. Too funny.

India always seems so colorful to me, at least the cities, with so many bright posters. :)

Your new header is great.

Lotus Reads said...

@Tara ~ hi! The religious ones are my favorite ones too. I collect religious folk art and the Indian ones are so colorful, I cannot help but be drawn to them.

@A Reader ~ lol@ acchi they still sell these posters, do you know? When I was in India last year I went in search of charts for the Hindi alphabet and found quite a few, we ended up putting them all over the walls of my daughter's bedroom and as you can imagine, they are a source of great amusement when she has friends over! :) Thank you for letting me know about the Matchbox art...I took a look and,like you, I was quite surprised there were so many varied designs!

Hope your Dusshera was good? I am so looking forward to Diwali!

Lotus Reads said...

@ml ~ Thank you! I really like this header, I am so enjoying having it!

@J ~ Thanks!!! I hope you get to visit India some day, it's a photographer's delight.

Thiru said...

awesome posters! your blog design is too good as well!

Id it is said...

Indian graphics appear to be an evolved art! There must have been tremendous market based research for this art to have such variety and so much demand. You know what came to mind - the 'dabbawalas' of Mumbai who were covered by the Harvard Business Review for being a one of a kind grass root business model that could compete with any successful business model in the western world.

Lotus Reads said...

Thanks, Thiru! I had lots of good help with my blog design, so i can't take all the credit.

@Id ~ The dhabbawallas are simply amazing! What a system they have and they seldom make mistakes. Another group of people that don't get enough credit are the dhobis. I am always amazed at the number of families they service and how they are able to remember whose clothes belong to whom!

boxacademy said...

I love the Hindu God/Godess posters you can buy on the streets in India. Do you have any idea where you can purchase those online? On the street there seems to be one brand that is most popular. I have looked up quite a few sites online but can't seem to find those exact prints.