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CRAFT YOUR JOURNEY
One Journey, Four Perspectives
BEHIND THE SCENES

One Journey, Four Perspectives

A KAMALAN PRODUCTION JOURNEY
FOR HASSELBLAD
One Journey, Four Perspectives

KAMALAN X HASSELBLAD, FEBRUARY 2019

Founded in 1941, Hasselblad is the leading manufacturer of medium format cameras and lenses, known for their uncompromising image quality and Swedish craftsmanship. With the X1D, the world’s first compact mirrorless digital medium format camera, Hasselblad ushered in a new era for portable photography.  
 
To showcase the endless creative possibilities for the X System, kamalan curated a journey with a unique proposition – four photographers with highly contrasting styles going on one epic road-trip across North India, seeking to capture the idea of the sacred. The centrepiece of the journey was the Kumbh Mela, a mass pilgrimage widely considered the largest gathering of humanity. As millions of devotees travelled from all over the country to bathe in the confluence of the holy rivers under a full moon, we set out to capture their stories, and in the process weave our own.
PROMINENT THEMES
  • Religion & Community

Day 1

Day 2

Day 3

Day 4

Day 5 & 6

Day 7 & 8

Day 9

Day 1

The group of photographers arrived in Delhi one pleasant winter afternoon. Members from our team met with them at the hotel from where we headed to kamalan office for lunch.  At the office, the group acquainted themselves with our team and sat down to discuss the much-awaited road trip. To document an event such as Kumbh Mela in all its fervour and frenzy with four photographers whose interests and modus operandi are very different from one another was a task in itself. Months of preparation and research had given shape to this journey which we were to undertake. After lunch, we decided that the trip should begin with a quick walk around the old parts of Delhi. Our team, who have experienced Old Delhi’s crooked lanes and delicious snacks, accompanied the photographers. 

Armed with their Hasselblads, the photographers set out to capture the ever-bustling, vibrant lanes of Chandni Chowk. The excitement of spotting four photographers was palpable near the Gurudwara. While two photographers stayed back to capture portraits of the temple guards, others split to explore these quaint lanes. After a few hours, we all gathered at the designated spot with stories ranging from that of a tiny shack filled with heaps of flowers to a terrace from wherein the enticing panorama of Old Delhi was captured. With the evening skies darkening with a bit of drizzle, the markets gave way to a sudden rush that was followed by a lull - sublime moments for the photographers to capture. It was after dinner that everyone headed back to the accommodation, in preparation for the long road trip ahead of us.

Day 2

The call time was around 5. The team was at the hotel much earlier, with the van decked up with the photographer’s essentials - extension cords, wifi dongles, chargers etc., After a cup of coffee, we made our way to the Ghazipur Flower Market. The dawn was pale orange and the place was already alive with an energy unique to Indian markets. The photographers had a field day at the market, where Gabe even made a friend who accompanied him around the market, explaining about the way of life there. We were delayed at the market, for obvious reasons, and had to rush back to the hotel for breakfast. 

We set out to Agra at around noon. The drive was pleasant with a few stops in between as the group wanted to capture the scenic fields that sprawled along the highway. It was around 4 when we reached Mehtab Bagh, where one more member of our team joined us. Having done an extensive recce of Allahabad and other cities, he was equipped to make sure that the whole journey unravels smoothly without any hiccups. The royal garden, Mehtab Bagh, offers a splendid view of the Taj set against the gleaming evening sky. And the group, mesmerised by the subliminal panorama of the Taj, spent hours trying to capture the same—the illusion of the monument lingering like a wisp of smoke. Back at the hotel, while having dinner we planned our schedule for the coming days. Going through the pictures captured on their X1Ds, we were intrigued by how differently the Taj was portrayed by the sombre mood of Jeremy’s imagery, and the rich warmth that was characteristic of Dan’s style. 

Day 3

The call time was at 5:30 am. Armed with the gear, everyone assembled at the lobby, ready for the day. Cold breezes gusted past frequently, as we headed to the Taj. We hired the only boatman by the banks of the river Yamuna — after some bargaining, as there were many strict rules placed around travelling to the Taj — to take us on his boat to witness the grand marble monument acquire its distinct sheen with the rising sun. It was cloudy, and the air was heavy with chillness, and after an hour of waiting, the sun failed to show up in all its glory. However, the gentle greys of the skies created a mystic aura which we thoroughly enjoyed. 

After spending an hour or so in the river, we headed to visit the Taj from up close. At the entrance, Joe was stopped by the guards for carrying more than the prescribed amount of film rolls. The situation got a bit tense, as he was asked to leave a few rolls back.  A few members of our team split the remaining rolls amongst each other and got them all in without his knowledge, much to his surprise. We were welcomed by the usual crowd that was there to see the 'monument of love'. After a few hours of roaming the grounds of Taj, we hit the road towards our next destination.

On our way to Lucknow was a quaint town, a centuries-old centre known for ittar making. Awash with blue-hued buildings that were surrounded by green and yellow mustard fields, Kannauj welcomed us with a coolness that was mixed with a dainty fragrance. After lunch, we headed to a workshop where ittar is made. A faint fragrance of mud and grass emanated as the craftsman explained to us the entire process. Then, we split and walked around the narrow lanes. Affable and curious residents, eager children were all greeting us and posing for photos—the visit was an affair of excitement. We roamed around the town till evening and after bidding adieu to the group of children who were flying kites, we proceeded to Lucknow. Tired, we headed to our respective rooms for a quick nap and gathered at Dheeraj’s room for our dinner. It was Joe’s birthday the next day, so we had made plans to throw a surprise party for him. Celebrations ensued and we called it a day, late into the night.

Day 4

As usual, the call time was before sunrise. Few cups of coffee powered us up for the visit to the morning markets of Lucknow.  Our team had ensured to choose a day when animal and bird markets were set up. Gabe, as we were used to by then, had taken off to explore the streets on his own. Local celebrities by now, a group of college students wanted to click pictures with the gang, taking turns to have their selfies clicked. With the daylight perfect to capture the rich architecture of Lucknow, we headed to Bara Imambara—an intriguing opus of lucknawi style of architecture. The labyrinth which seemed to form a maze that leads to the same place amazed us.

The evening before, our team had come up with a few experiences that would be ideal for photographers, and our local expert had arranged for a visit to the Dhobi Ghats of Lucknow. Several rows of clothes of various shades lining the banks juxtaposed by the green of the river welcomed us.  Since it was an interesting angle to capture the dhobis at work, from the river with entire lines of clothes as a backdrop, a boat was hired. While on the boat, our attention was drawn to a group of children playing cricket on the other bank. Joe and others joining them for a game of cricket. Lending a surrealistic feel to the whole setting was the gentle shining of the afternoon sun on the bright yellow mustard fields.  The children were running around flying kites and playing. The photographers jumped at this chance and captured the vibrant scenes with their after which we headed back to the hotel for lunch.

For the evening we decided to take a walk around the Chowk - the famous market streets of Lucknow. Visiting the markets on a Sunday can be tedious - it was crowded beyond imagination, and so we just walked around taking in this assault on our senses. Dinner was arranged for in a lavish courtyard with most delectable dishes - ranging from the kebabs to the aromatic biryani - of Lucknow’s cuisine.

Day 5 & 6

Keeping in mind the huge inflow of people for the largest human gathering, we set out around 5 am to Allahabad. The entire path leading to the city was crowded and the traffic, highly regulated. We arrived in Allahabad around noon and were stopped by officials who said the road that we were to take was blocked. After an extended discussion, in which one of our team members had to explain to them about our journey, they agreed to let us take another route that led to the accommodation. With so much already documented about the Kumbh and its significance, it was going to a creative task for four photographers to capture the event in a different light.  

With makeshift bridges connecting lands, throngs of devotees in bright orange and yellow everywhere, the generally silent city of Allahabad was transformed into something entirely different—the city of Kumbh. Trailing behind the slow-paced crowd and traffic, and quite captivated by the happenings, we reached our accommodation around noon. After lunch, we strolled around the makeshift city where we were going to spend the next three days. We visited the Akharas - makeshift camps of the various sects of followers from different parts of the country. Known for their extreme and bizarre forms of devotion, the photographers captured portraits and the scenes that unfolded in the fervent event. After which, we split into groups and took different routes to walk all the way and meet at the Sangam - the sacred point of confluence of the holy rivers. We were exhausted by the end of the day. 

Wake up call was around 4 am as Jeremy wanted to capture the devotees arriving for the holy bathing at Sangam. It was the last bathing date of the Kumbh, and the gang did not want to miss out on such a fascinating experience. We merged with the throngs of devotees, sadhus and travellers who had come to take part in this sacred event. It was almost surreal to capture the sublime moments of devotion and fervour that lingered palpably. The other three photographers, now familiar with the lay of the land, stepped out on their own a little later. Exhausted, we rested after breakfast. A boat ride was organised by the accommodation but it was difficult to photograph along with other travellers in the boat, we hired two separate boats for a shoot. Since there were too many boats at that time, we planned to take a boat ride the next day early in the morning.

Day 7 & 8

The day started late at around 6 am. Two boats were hired and we soaked in the sudden lull, with the crowds thinning and the camps disappearing one by one. After breakfast, we visited a famous camp called the Khinnar Akhara - a sect of transgender sadhus who were recently recognised by the other sects as to have a separate camp at the Kumbh. The camp was crowded, with the artworks displayed driving home the message of equality. We were amazed as we glimpsed through the stories of the gurus who had achieved this status after a long struggle. 

We had finally arrived at the last leg of our journey. After an early morning shoot, we had a light breakfast and hit the road towards one of the oldest inhabited cities in the world - a city that has retained a mysticism that has eluded and attracted millions to it. The ride to Varanasi was smooth and reached the banks of the river Ganges - around which an entire repository of legends, myths and stories about the city has been built.  From Assi Ghat, a boat was hired to take us to our accommodation which was half an hour away.

There was something mystic in the air of Varanasi that enveloped us all - everyone was mesmerised by the constant churn of activities that seemed to be playing to the soft rhythm of the river. A city that makes one want to spend time alone, the group decided to spend the evening walking around the ghats on their own - soaking in the rich history of Varanasi before heading back to the hotel for the night.

Day 9

The wake-up call was around 5:30 am. We hired a boat to catch a panoramic view of Varanasi waking up to the morning sun from the Ganges. It was four photographers with different styles capturing the many ghats of Varanasi each with a character of its own - a truly challenging and exciting way to explore X1D’s possibilities.

After the ride, we walked through the narrow crowded lanes of Varanasi that hold within their crumbling quaint structures, legends and myths of a thousand years. Every turn led to a temple with its own stories. Since some of the members had planned to extend their stay beyond the journey for a day or two,  they had requested us to help arrange for the accommodation. The time being close and the season being the peak season for travellers, the availability of rooms was a problem. We spoke to our contacts in the city who helped with the rooms. Our team did a quick internal recce to check if the arrangements were okay. 

The evening was spent roaming around the ghats, and a boat ride to the other bank where Jeremy found some interesting sadhus to document and the others were engrossed in capturing a few local horse riders. Since it was the last dinner of the journey, a special team dinner was arranged. The most laid back dinner of the trip, with no schedule to be planned for the next day, everyone shared their highs and lows of the journey and took time to look back and reflect on how the journey had shaped their perception of this land of stories, India. 

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