chronicling a country.

Nov 30, 2015

In the photograph above, Steve McCurry captured the constant movement of Mumbai, one of India's most well-known and well-documented metropolises. This photograph is from 1994, but the atmosphere and mood that it evokes would still be similar to any photograph of Mumbai taken in 2015. This quality is something McCurry himself implicated, telling Time Magazine, "History is alive in India. No matter how much the country is changing." McCurry described India as having a certain kind of "visual chaos", which to some may sound exhausting. For me, he could not have put it more aptly. The visual chaos of India is mirrored in the lives led in the country: lives that are teeming in every corner of every city in India. Ceaseless motion and an abundance of color are stereotypes that can be associated with India's ambiance but they hold truth to them. For a photographer like McCurry, there is no doubt that the vivaciousness of India is what made his photography so full of depth. Now, as reported by The Atlantic, his most evocative photography of the country will be on display in New York's Rubin Museum of Art. While I will not have the pleasure of seeing the photographs in person, I was enthralled by the visuals displayed online in many articles describing the upcoming exhibition. 

Literary associations to India, for me, are much stronger than visual ones. I have grown up reading about the country; prior to actually living in Mumbai for six months, I lived in India, vicariously, through the novels I read. Fictional accounts of India provided me access to the intensity of socioeconomic stresses, the relationships between archetypal roles in society, and just an overall account of Indian life. My taste for reading India-centric literature was further enhanced when I discovered Maximum City, by Suketu Mehta. The renowned depiction of Mumbai ("a city lost and found" by the author) was what, in part, prompted my decision to move there. While I have formed strong connections to the country myself, and have always had such a bond with it, books give me constant admittance to different aspects of life there. Now, with the photographs I discovered by McCurry, I am fascinated by photographic evidence of the country. Words and photographs often go hand-in-hand, but with photos like these, sometimes they are all you need to attain a sense of a country as multifarious as mine. 
This post is somewhat reflective, as many of my posts have begun to be, but it is also an effort to share photographs I think everyone should see. Even for those who have not ventured to India in the past, the country will become visually accessible – and perhaps prompt a visit.

– M

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