Anupama Raju talks about her collaboration with photographer Pascal Bernard and about their work ‘Surfaces and Depths’

Anupama Raju was never short of muse during her stay at La Rochelle, a port city in France. The crystal blue sea, Maison Henri II, the historical building she stayed in, which is rumoured to be haunted, the twin forts that remind her of two brothers, standing guard protecting the city…

And the result is ‘Surfaces and Depths’, a series of poems on the city that are part of an exhibition of photographs and poems by French photographer Pascal Bernard and Anupama. While Anupama has penned the poems that can be called odes to La Rochelle, Pascal has visualised them through his camera.

“‘Surfaces and Depths’ explores the depth of the city of La Rochelle – its heritage and culture. It is a result of my discovery of the city during my stay there,” says Anupama.

Apart from exploring the “surface of the city, I also went into its depths where the stories lie.” And from these surfaces and depths come lines that bring forth myriad images of the city. The sea, says Anupama, is a recurring metaphor in the poems. “The sea has been a unifying link in the cities I have lived in, Chennai and Thiruvananthapuram. And be it Chennai, Thiruvananthapuram, Pondicherry or La Rochelle, the sea has been a cumulative experience. I have a poem in this series based on Maison Henri II, a building that dates back to the Renaissance. Not only is it rich in history, the architecture is fascinating too. And no, I did not meet the rumoured ghost during my stay there. What struck me when I first arrived at La Rochelle was the light all around me; the sky and the sea emanated a special brightness. It was such a relief from the dreary and depressing rainy Paris.”

The collaboration between Pascal and Anupama began in 2011 when Anupama was invited for a residency programme, as part of a cultural partnership between Pondicherry and La Rochelle.

‘One City, One Place, One Person’, the project they worked on explored Pondicherry through verse and images. However, while in ‘One City…’ she wrote the poems after Pascal clicked the photos, in ‘Surfaces and Depths’ she penned the verses first and Pascal visualised them later. She is quick to add that though they are inspired by each other’s perspective, their visions are independent.

“Although each poem accompanies a picture, it also makes sense on its own. Just as the picture works on its own,” says Anupama, who was invited by Le Centre Intermondes on the residency programme in La Rochelle.

The journalist-cum-corporate trainer is currently awaiting the release of a book of poems she has written. “I have finalised on the publishers; hopefully it will be out soon,” she says. She is also currently working on a series of poems based on the city. She will be reading a few of these poems during the inauguration of ‘Surfaces and Depths’ at Alliance Francaise de Trivandrum on January 7. After the conclusion of the exhibition on January 22, the exhibition will move to other Alliance Francaise centres in the country before travelling to La Rochelle in May.