Before moving to Delhi 1,5 years ago, I had never lived in a country with a dominant polytheistic religion. Even though I had seen Christian and Muslim relics before, I was quite overtaken by the concepts of holy animals, water, flowers and things, people and places, that are prevalent on every corner in India. I wanted to add this sanctification of things to my assignment, again showing that even though the objects might be typical for a specific religion, the idea of using them for means of worship, draw strength or inspiration from, is a world wide phenomenon. I went to a small, family run temple near my house and photographed different corners and artifacts. It was getting dar, so the images are quite low key, which in a way also brought out the details, colours and structure of the subjects, giving the photo a classical still life effect, which I really like.
Of the selection, I prefer the first one and final one, for their composition and narrative. The first one has a stronger narrative, but I choose to add the final one to my assignment. The image provokes certain questions about what the artifacts are used for and their meaning within the faith they represent. On the other hand, many of the items are familiar and convey the similarity with practices of other religions
Again, even though I love the colours in this image, I have transformed it into black and white for the sake of consistency in the assignment. Besides that, with the high contrast – high structure process, the details of the artifacts become clearer and the background becomes a bit more distinct.
After seeing all the images together, I started doubting about how this image works together with the others. Especially in black and white it is a bit difficult to distinguish the subjects in the photograph. So I decided to go back to the photographs I took at the cremation site near the Yamuna river. This river is considered to be holy. There are some temples on the water and the ghats and people come daily to do perform their rituals and prayers. Holy it may be, the river is extremely polluted, because the 22 million city sewage ends here, but also because of all the religious artefacts, chemicals and garbage that is dumped here.
These images question the concept of holiness, spiritual power and our actual treatment of the artefacts themselves. In a sense the pollution shows that boundaries of the individualism of faith. Even though the artefacts pollute the water, because of the powers they grant to the individual believer, changes to have a more respectful approach to nature or environment, and therefor the greater good, are almost impossible to make. I have experienced this same hypocrisy in other faiths. Believing in the goodness of God, or God as creator, but not being able to share that goodness to others, or take care of creation itself. Believers use their artefacts for their personal profit only, claim it to be holy, but what’s in a word when it’s only beneficial to a few individuals?
My preference goes to this image, because I think the composition works best and it has a meditative character to it. Still it emphasises the contrast between tranquility and mess, peacefulness and pollution.