The writer Teju Cole describes Singh's work as an invitation to see a culture through the eyes of an assured insider. In 2016, he published an essay in The New York Times Magazine criticizing the limitations of the exotic pictures of India featured in magazines like National Geographic. Cole says Singh's choice to work mostly in black and white, and to focus on poetic portraits and private spaces, defies the expectations of the predictable Indian photograph.
"I adore the way Dayanita Singh's work is able to capture the quiet moment," he says. "There's nothing exotic about it, and it embraces all sides of Indian life. And because of her instincts for what picture should come after which picture, all of it feels like it belongs."
In addition to defying the exotic frame, Singh has constantly challenged the limitations of the modern photography exhibition. Her previous works were a series of large cabinet-like structures that open and close like Japanese screen doors and contain dozens of thematically connected images. Singh described them as giant hardback books. (Last year, New York's Museum of Modern Art acquired one of those works.)
Now, with the new pocket museums, Singh says she's finally found a form that allows her to adapt the gallery experience for every collector. Each small Museum Bhavanincludes almost 300 images and can be purchased for less than $100. Last fall, Museum Bhavan won the Paris Photo Book of the Year Prize, and it has recently been awarded the International Center of Photography's highest honor.