India in images, feeding migratory seagulls to living in the highest village

This image of Ramnath Sharma, framed against migratory seagulls on the banks of Yamuna, fetched Saurabh Narang the IPF portrait prize 2018

This image of Ramnath Sharma, framed against migratory seagulls on the banks of Yamuna, fetched Saurabh Narang the IPF portrait prize 2018 | Photo Credit: Saurabh Narang

The German municipality of Zingst, on the Baltic Sea, is hosting the 15th Horizons Zingst Environmental Photo Festival, beginning May 20. Known for its sandy beaches, the town attracts photography and nature enthusiasts during this time of the year, by displaying photography exhibitions, workshops and marketplace in the city’s galleries, outdoor spaces and on the Baltic Sea beach. This year’s festival has Indian photographer Saurabh Narang, who is exhibiting images from his India UnExplored project, attempting to portray how Nature impacts people and vice versa.

One of his prominent images is that of an elderly man, Ramnath Sharma, feeding migratory birds at the Yamuna Ghat in Delhi. Saurabh had taken this photograph in February 2017, observing how the locals feed seagulls that migrate from Siberia to Delhi between October and March every year: “The locals believe feeding the seagulls is good karma.” The image fetched Saurabh the Indian Photo Festival portrait prize in 2018. 

Saurabh studied finance and worked as an analyst at a multinational bank; his growing interest in photography prompted him to take a sabbatical; eventually, he quit the banking sector to become an independent photographer in 2018. Saurabh is now a multimedia storyteller, taking up freelance and independent projects. After quitting the banking sector, he moved from Delhi to Sikkim in August 2018 and then to Germany in May 2020: “The India UnExplored project, though, began in 2013. I began travelling and taking photographs with the sole intention of understanding my country better.”

Photographer Saurabh Narang

Photographer Saurabh Narang | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

He travelled to 32 of the 36 Indian States and union territories and says, over the years photography helped him understand the complicated relationship humans have with nature.  

Most of the images featured in the photo festival were taken from 2017 to 2020. 

Given his vast collection of images from the project, Saurabh sought the help of science and documentary photographer Esther Horvath to select and curate images for this exhibition: “Horvath was my mentor during The International Environmental Photography Lab, a six-month online mentoring program presented by Native Agency in collaboration with Grün Berlin, Neue Schule für Fotografie Berlin (New School for Photography), and the World Food Institute.”

The images are diverse — featuring indigenous tribes in the North East and Himachal Pradesh, people who live close to water bodies, mountains or the desert across the country. 

A photograph of mahouts and elephants at Kaziranga National Park, Assam, is the story of a mahout’s job being passed down through families, from father to son. In Gujarat’s Rann Utsav, Saurabh trained his lens on a folk singer seated on a colourful mat, in contrast to the white sands. Saurabh tracks an astronomical event in the world’s highest village in Spiti Valley, Himachal Pradesh, and an aerial view of a boat against the pristine waters in Shnongpdeng, Meghalaya.

Saurabh reflects: “What I have learned is that there is no one right way of living. We are all human beings with desires, with joys, and tragedies, and that is much more than what divides us.”

(The 15th Horizons Zingst Environmental Photo Festival is from May 20 to 29; India UnExplored will be on view at Gallery Hotel Stone, Zingst, from May 23)

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Printable version | May 26, 2022 3:09:16 pm |