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Hindustan 2008

Winner of The Julia Margaret Cameron Award

My perception as a child and young adult was that I had 'practically grown up' with Indians; my mother's midwife, the first face that I saw in this life, was Indian.  As an adult, I can appreciate that the kinship I felt towards my family's Indian staff, the people who birthed me, fed me, and clothed me as I was growing up.  My life was filled with nurturing Indian people who shaped me in the same way that a sister, brother, or friend might.  Being surrounded by them, I picked up some of the Hindi language and envisioned myself in their culture.  As an extension of this felt connection with my care-takers, I often fascinated that in a previous life I was Indian and, I suppose, related to these people that I had formed such a close bond with.  Naturally, this fantasy included my , until this day, fascination with Bollywood .  This deep bond, coupled with short childhood trips to Mumbai to visit an uncle, and an old promise made to my mother's midwife, I was always bound and destined to return to India.  When I finally did revisit India this past year, I was was welcomed with open arms.  Ironically, as an adult, I find it difficult to escape a general misconception, by most Indians that I meet around the world, that I am one of them.  My features, my loose grasp of their language, and my name, Ghada (affectionately mispronounced Radha! Like our God!!), proves again and again that some strong connection exists between this place, these people, and me.  It is with great pleasure that I say this country welcomes me with open arms.  But I have seen with my own eyes, India is like a pilgrimage that must be undertaken by everyone at least once in a lifetime because visitors from all walks of life are accepted as invited to enjoy the rich and beautiful culture.


India is one of the few countries where the ancient past and customs are represented with equal presence and importance as is the speed of their progress.  While some cultures are experiencing a dilution of cultural belief, Indians celebrate there every God with the same passion and enthusiasm that is stirred by the country's growing and international IT growth.  But also, we cannot merely look at India's current participation in the "space race", or its firm presence on this great roller-coaster of innovation, and neglect the undeniable face that this culture has retained, for the most part, its devotional beliefs, they are unfaltering, and as pure as they have ever been. I would not be surprised to see an IT genius, in his/hers beautiful, futuristic, minimalist pad, complete with a shrine to present offerings of thanks and praise to the Gods, a clear symbol of devotion to the national community of Indian belief and spirituality.  Modernity and belief are not mutually exclusive, and instead coexist on the national stage with bright blasts of color.  The beauty of India is in its simultaneous appreciation of past, present, and future.



 In theory, life, color, poverty, and richness might seem to be contradictory themes, or, somehow, poverty would result in a lack of color and life while wealth would be naturally producing some type of visible vibrance.  However, in my work, and in particular in India, I have found this preconception to be entirely false.  In my work, the prevalent theme is of have-nots transcending material beauty, to which their access has been severed, and instead inventing beauty out of thin air.  One visiting the core of this population, the vast underclass, sees a population that, as a function of necessity, has unlocked the secret of cohabitation with the other.  The common thread of poverty ties together a closely-knit people with divergent spiritualities.  Elsewhere in the world this juxtaposition results in war and political infighting.  In contrast, a major byproduct of India's poverty is beauty in Technicolor.  It is this vibrance that I was attempting to capture on film.  


As a photographer, those who manufacture beauty rather than allow a lacking of material wealth dictate its absence have always been my subject.  In the beginning of my career, I was unaware of this drive to document the lives of the ever-present population although every project of mine was, in essence, an examination of these people.  Now, I have a great appreciation for this impulse as it is evident in every subject that I chose to capture.  My life's work is to document life around me.  At first, there is a subtlety to my images.  Upon closer inspection, I hope, one will find every corner or every image is a part of the visual story that I am trying to tell.  If the viewer cares to examine all corners of each photograph, he or she will discover the subjects life open for observation.  With my work, I aim to represent the average, often mundane story that exists just beneath the surface. Above all, to represent my  beautiful subjects with the dignity they deserve and to capture and share a moment with faces that might often be overlooked. 

Camera: Mamiya 6 analog

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