India comes alive in Unseen India, a coffee-table book by Salim Pushpanath
India inspires photographers to click. Geography, religions, communities, lifestyle, food habits, clothing, celebrations… there is a treasure out there, seen and unseen, to be photographed. Photographer Salim Pushpanath has focussed on those not-so-regularly-photographed facets of the country in his book, Unseen India.
Salim, with over 20 coffee-table books to his credit – all targeted at the tourist, is elated that he has fulfilled a dream. “There are many most-photographed places and aspects of India. When I started working on the project, I referred similar books on India to ensure that I do not repeat those images. I’m happy with the result though the book might have covered only 70 per cent of what I’d envisaged,” says Salim, a planter and publisher as well.
Salim, a self-taught photographer, travelled by car along with his childhood friend, Azeez K.M., for the trip. “I didn’t take state by state. I had decided on the places to cover. Otherwise, a lifetime isn’t enough to travel and capture the uniqueness of this country.” The toughest was covering the Rohtang Pass-Ladakh route. “But then the highpoint was that we could cover the Spiti valley in all its glory,” adds Salim.
He stresses that more than anything else, the book journeys across India through its people. “No other country can claim such diversity when it comes to clothing, food, lifestyle and beliefs. Instead of presenting just places, I’ve covered India through the people from various areas,” he says.
For example, Gujarat’s images are composed of the Rabari community that live in bhunga huts in Kutch, salt workers of the Rann of Kutch, tobacco farmers, people in traditional Gujarati costumes and herds of Asiatic Wild Ass in the Little Rann of Kutch Wildlife Sanctuary. Snapshots of rituals from a Muslim wedding, ornate havelis, vignettes of rugged village life and the Pushkar camel fair paint Rajasthan in vivid colours.
Everywhere it is the people there who evoke the flavours and fragrances, life style and legends of that land. Child monks at Lamayuru Monastery in Ladakh throw light on the austere but awe-inspiring landscape of the place; while rickshaw pullers and the flower market of Kolkata depict the hustle and bustle of the metropolis. Puri Jagannath Temple abuzz with devotees sketches the temple town; pictures of a wedding ceremony of the Chettiars, panoramic views from the Nilgiris and the majestic Brihadeeswara Temple in Thanjavur depict glimpses of Tamil Nadu. Similarly, each place is discovered through the lives of the people and their surroundings.
Even touristy spots and monuments such as the Ajanta-Ellora caves, the Dal Lake, and the Taj Mahal have been presented in a different light, Salim says.
Closer home, in Kerala, it is the backwaters, Kovalam beach, Mohiniyattam dancers and Kathakali artistes and lush green tea plantations of Munnar that have made it to the book. His next book is on the old houses and palaces of Kerala.
Unseen India has texts in English, French and German, keeping the tourist in mind. Conceptualised and designed by Salim, and published by his own DEE BEE Info Publications, the book is priced at Rs. 1,200 (Rs. 950 for paperback edition).