As you have read in my former post, I have changed the subject of my assignment. I have a collections of photographs from the same place and objects over a period of time and will present them together in such a way that it tells and underlines the unique and sad life story of Cyrus and his family.
Because there is quite a lot of documentation of Cyrus; old photographs, newspaper articles and letters, I have a wealth of angles to work from. I want the narrative to be wider than just the family story. Through looking at the photographs I want the viewer to become aware of the passing of time, the importance and meaning we put on object and status and what remains.
Because there has been quite a lot of attention from the press, I want to add two stories that I found, one online, one among the papers, that give a good sense of the events that defined their lives. To add my own personal experience, I will focus more on the relationship I had with Cyrus and how I got all the material.
Especially after reading Cyrus’ sister’s notes, I feel that it is important to keep the memory alive. Not so much because I am stuck on royalty, but more because it is such a dramatic example of how status and property can ruin peoples life. How dreams and grudges can block reality and eventually undermine who you are.
Cyrus, his mother and sister died lonely and poor. I really believe Cyrus could have been so much happier if his mother hadn’t been such a stubborn lady and hadn’t molded them into believing their status was the only thing to live for.
These are the kind of ideas I want to show through my own photographs and in the way I order them in the book. In the next post I will show the different steps I took and my though process along the way.
This week’s events have made me change my mind completely regarding this assignment. My acquaintance Cyrus died and I want to dedicate this assignment to him. The thing is, Cyrus had the most interesting and sad life stories I’ve ever come across. He grew up in a royal Moghul family, with two brothers and a sister. His mother was a very strong headed and stubborn person who was battling against the confiscation of the royal family’s palaces and belongings. When their house burnt down in 1975 and no other accommodation was provided by the government, she went into protest by living in the first class waiting room for 10 years with her children, servants and dogs.
In 1985 the princess and her mother was granted the ruins of a hunting lodge in the forest of New Delhi. She accepted it and moved in with her two children and dogs. The ruins did not have any doors or windows, there was no water or electricity, but they managed to move in and establish themselves. The princess was very unhappy and committed suicide in 1993 by crushing her diamonds and drinking them. Cyrus and Sakina, her children, were devastated and lay besides her for days.
They continued to live in the legacy of their mother in extreme poverty, but never let go of their titles and traditions.
I met Cyrus last year and we become friends. I would visit him in the hunting lodge and he would call me in the evenings. He wanted to know everything about my children and husband and mainly talked about his misfortunes and unhappiness. His sister had passed away a few months earlier and he was still very upset about it.
At a certain point I felt that I couldn’t meet all his requests of buying things for him and arranging other issues. I distanced myself a little bit and didn’t visit him for a few months. Last week I heard he passed away. I went back to the lodge and photographed his belongings, took a few papers and photographs and started reading letters and a book his sister wrote. I believe there is so much to discover about the way they thought and lived, and learn about how status and loyalty can ruin people’s lives. It’s a sad story, but fascinating.
My idea is to go through the archives and find photos with objects that I have photographed when Cyrus was still alive and now that he has passed away. It will tell sad the story of the downfall of a royalty, the story of loyalty, sacrifice and human decay.
Here is a first selection of the material that I want to use:
I’m thinking about ways on how to put everything together, and will write more about it in my next post.
I am not sure Merrick really felt like being photographed and interviewed that, but once we were talking and outside he eased up a bit. Merrick is from The United States, but moved to New Delhi a year ago. I feel like he still misses his friends quite a bit. There’s a serious about him that I have tried to portray. Here’s a selection of my favorite photos. It’s quite interesting to see the difference in expression between his own photos and the one with his brother.
I have worked a bit with the blocked shadows to create a gloomy effect. Here are my favorite ones:
I photographed Shiv in his home. Shiv comes from a well known, influential family in Delhi and lives together with his parents, brother and grandmother. Shiv is a well rounded kid, involved in many activities and really knows which direction he is heading. His confidence and insight impressed me and I was touched by all the art and pictures on the walls of their house. Each piece tells a story and are a reflection of Shiv and the environment he is growing up in.
My preference goes to the two images below. I like the composition of Shiv and the icons on the wall, they seem to be interacting with each other. The portrait of Shiv reading shows the friendly, kind heartedness that I experienced when I interviewed him.
I have been experimenting a bit with making a collage, but am not very happy with the results.I really struggle with finding the right balance, Photoshop incompetencies and lack of ideas. Should work on that!
Here is a first selection of my session with Anna. I photographed her at her home in Kortrijk, Belgium.
I like the interaction between Anna and her dog, and the laid backness and messiness of the garden. Anna’s mother is a good friend of mine and just looking at the teapot makes me happy. Below are my favorite photos; I like the way the colours of the details come together, the teapot, toys, chair and umbrella add to a nice, happy balance. The lower one is my first choice, mainly because Anna’s expression is stronger and more visible.
I met Somya in Belsar, Utter Pradesh, when I was staying in her home to take photographs of the school her uncle runs. I was happy to be able to interview, she comes from such a completely different background than all the other children I had interviewed and I was curious to learn about her ideas about her childhood and future.
I will talk about it more when I write about her interview, for now what struck me most is that she doesn’t want to grow up because it means that she will be restricted. And it’s true. As soon as girls get married (and a lot get married while they are under 18) they move in with their husband’s family and don’t come out of the house anymore. You hardly see women in the street, it’s pretty shocking.
Somya is aware of it, her translator said that it is tradition and the women don’t mind it, but I could feel the pain of this vibrant young girl, who loves Bollywood dancing and wants to be a police officer when she grows up.
At night we walked through the village she lives in and I decided to use some of the images for a collage, which you will see in my next post.