A Photographer Confronts His World
It was the 24th anniversary of the attack on and destruction of the Babri mosque in Ayodhya, Uttar Pradesh on December 6th, 1998. Click on the image above to go to a selection of essays about and/or related to Ayodhya.
My project on India began in Ayodhya. In fact, when I arrived in Ayodha in the Fall of 2009, I wasn’t even sure what the project was going to be. It was after staying in Faizabad – Ayodhya’s sister city some 30 minutes rickshaw ride away, for some weeks, and spending time walking and talking to people in Ayodhya itself, that the shape and structure of the work finally emerged. The Idea of India is a very personal engagement with complex histories, and my first attempt to break away from the suffocating definitions, rules, constrictions and limits of what passes for photojournalism. I did not want to have anything to do with it. It was during this work that I discovered why I went out into the world with cameras and a notebook, and what it was that I wanted to do with them. And though there were many mistakes along the way, and though the work remains intentionally ‘incomplete’ – what is this bizarre obsession people have with completing a project? No one completes a project, you merely abandon it!, because the questions I began to ask, the spaces I began to seek, and the inquiries I began to make, are still with me. And I am grateful for it. The curiosity, the excitement, the joy of producing this work remains, and since I can abandon the project at any time – the entire work has over 250 final selected images and dozens of essays, I have chosen not to. I do not want to give it up, nor do I want to feel that I am done with it. Perhaps it isn’t a personal choice anyways – the issues plaguing the region: the xenophobia, the sectarianism, and what Eqbal Ahmed called ‘distorted histories’, stay and are perhaps more extreme today than when I began working on the project. Perhaps I feel that now would be a good time to return, to re-start, to add more to the work if for no other reason than to keep up what was always an act of resistance and personal refusal to accept official and state historical narratives. It can still happen. After all, the project isn’t ‘complete’.
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