Chapter 1
Chennai’s Banner Industry: Artists and their Methods

Banners and cutouts are almost entirely hand-made yet their dominant visual effect is that of mechanically reproduced images. Their production is labor-intensive yet their presence in the urban landscape is startlingly ephemeral.

In this descriptive account of the locational context of the ‘shed’ or banner workshop environment as well as the process of production of banner and cutout advertisements the author provides a detailed documentation of the materials, techniques and labor involved in the construction of these enormous, site-specific creations.

A majority of the hand-painted political and film advertisements in Chennai were produced in ten small, family-run banner companies. A whole team of people — the company owner, master artists, apprentices in- training to become artists, carpenters, lettering artists who specialized in painting the text on the advertisements, and a wholly different group of men who transported and installed the completed banners and cutouts on site — were involved in the creation and manufacture of these advertisements. In interviews with the author these individuals reflect on the skills that were necessary for success in this field, questions of style, and the personalities who were most influential in shaping their profession.

The field data analysis presented in this chapter indexes the evolution of a new iconography, or a repertoire of stylistic criteria, specifically for the representation of cinematic and political imagery.





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