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Self-Improvement & Hobbies

Banaras in focus

For his solo show here, Ranjan Ramchandani picks 20 photos of the Indian holy city as it has an arresting visual mix
The Straits Times - December 1, 2011
By: Deepika Shetty
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Banaras in focus Ramchandani's most difficult work, Breaking Dawn (above), took six visits to get the shot.

After solo shows in India and putting out a photography book on the mountainous region of Ladakh, self-taught Singapore-based photographer Ranjan Ramchandani is finally going solo here.

But he will not be showing images of the snow-capped mountain peaks of Ladakh, a region in India's northern-most state of Jammu and Kashmir.

Ramchandani's debut solo Singapore show retains its Indian focus but its subject is the Indian holy city of Banaras.

The exhibition, which features 20 photographs ranging in price from $700 to $2,900, opens tonight at Gallery Krisstel Martin in Tanjong Pagar Distripark.

The 47-year-old photographer told Life! he picked Banaras because the city took him on a mystical journey when he first visited it in October last year.

Since then, he has made three visits capturing the people, the river Ganges, the ghats - a broad flight of steps leading down to the riverbank - and the old homes which add to the character of the city.

'It is impossible not to fall under its spell,' he said. 'There is something almost magical about Banaras. The city intrigues me. Its history, culture, people, religion and the river, all have stories around it. It is a place where time seems to have stood still.'

Also known as Varanasi, Banaras is one of the oldest and one of the holiest places for Hindus. An important pilgrimage destination in India, it is considered the abode of the Hindu deity Shiva, the lord of the universe.

The city is on the west bank of the Ganges, considered the holiest of Indian rivers, and riverbanks are lined with 18th- and 19th-century pavilions, temples and terraces.

'There was interest in my photographs of Ladakh, but I felt Banaras has a more universal appeal. The city and its people offer a more arresting visual mix,' he explained.

Among the many people he photographed is a holy man named Madhav Muni, whose expressive face features in the exhibition.

Ramchandani said: 'Unlike several others whom I tried photographing, he never asked for anything. There was something special about him, like he was at peace with himself and the world around him. Even when I took pictures, his expression would be unchanged.'

Earlier this month, he returned to Banaras and found Madhav Muni still at his usual spot on the ghats. 'I took several more shots of him and recorded long conversations with him. I hope to develop it into a small book in the future.'

His most difficult shot was a work titled Breaking Dawn. It took six visits to get the frame featured in the exhibition.

'I was trying to get the colours, boats and breaking of dawn in the same frame. This moment lasts for about 30 seconds to a minute,' he said.

A former business consultant, Ramchandani, who is married and has a daughter, now spends much time in India pursuing his life-long dream of being a photographer.

Last year, his coffee-table photography book Swades: Ladakh - The Land Of Splendor was launched in New Delhi.

He picked up his first camera when he was eight but it was only in 2008 that he could concentrate on photography.

'There were too many commitments earlier to focus on photography alone,' he said with a laugh.

He added: 'Banaras has taught me some things are pre-destined and they happen when they are meant to.'

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When: Till Dec 15, noon to 7pm (Wednesdays to Fridays), 10 to 7pm (Saturdays and Sundays)

Where: Gallery Krisstel Martin, 39 Keppel Road, Tanjong Pagar Distripark, 02-01C

Admission: Free

Info: Call 9099-3965 or go to www.gallerykrisstelmartin.com

 

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