Thursday, March 17, 2011

Varanasi, holy city for photographers (Part 3)

‘  I am the taste of water, the light of the sun and the moon, the syllable om in the Vedic mantras; I am the sound in ether and ability in man.
  I am the original fragrance of the earth, and I am the heat in fire. I am the life of all that lives, and I am the penances of all ascetics.’
Bagabat Gita, 7 8-9

Life and death meet in the waters of the Ganges in Varanasi. There are around 100 ghats (series of steps leading down to the water) and from dawn to night they are bustling with activity. The holy river is the center of everything: morning prayers to the rising sun, purification baths, floating donations and immersed ashes. Beautiful, mystical, frightening, polluted, the Ganges is the perfect representation of our fascination for India and Varanasi. The following 2 series of photographs illustrations of its contractions. 

James Hervey   
The images of James Hervey (an English photographer and traveler who lives in Paris) perfectly reflect the quiet and impenetrable beauty of the river. For him his images are an invitation to the country rather than a way to describe it. However I feel that they describe the atmosphere, the fervor, the relationship between the pilgrims and water with precision. They are moody, soft and peaceful but also intense, enigmatic and spiritual. James Hervey takes part in the local traditions with empathy and respect and offers a wonderful immersion in Varanasi while creating true poetry.

More on James Hervey:
His website:
A video in Le Monde (French only):

Giulio Di Sturco
Giulio Di Sturco is a 30 year old Italian photographer working for the VII photo agency. As a photojournalist his approach to India and of course Varanasi is very different than an artistic vision of the place. As mentioned in the introduction to his series “the great mother’, ‘the recent report of a U.S. agency forecasts, by 2030, the death of Indian sacred river because of global warming, water pollution and construction of dams along the river. Ganges death not only will ravage the economy of that area but, moreover, it will affect deeply the local people’s spiritual life, with its ancient rituals and traditions.’ His striking images take us back to a sad reality. While we can still feel the spirituality of the place, we start to notice details of pollution and to understand the tragedy taking place behind the religious fervor. Here we discover the other face of Varanasi devastated by the negligence and tradition of its country and its people. Accumulation of garbage and landscapes of desolation leave us with a taste of bitterness and a real fear for this place that we believed timeless and eternal.

  More on Giulio Di

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