Indra Kumar Jha
MAA portrays the funeral rituals of Manikarnika, the cremation ground of Varanasi, India, alongside moving images of everyday life in this utterly unique place. A collaboration with Indra - one of the very few people allowed to photograph the events here - the book is a sampling of photographs carefully selected by Federico, from a roughly 10,000 photograph archive, created intently by Indra over the last few years.
“This book is one of the ugliest, and one of the most beautiful books of the year. One of the ugliest because the images, basic time-stamped snapshots, are devoid of any aesthetic and because it is quite unpleasant to stare death in the face; one of the most beautiful because the photos of the deceased and their families made in Benares by Indra Kumar Jha are brilliantly edited by Federico Carpani and because while it is necessary to stare death in the face, it may not necessarily have to be through any artistic aesthetic strategies.”
“The Italian photographer Carpani has worked with this local photographer from Varanasi in India. The tradition here is to shoot your relatives after death and before they are burnt, and these are combined with other family photos in a series of gatefolds.”
The structure of the book is made by an external sequence, picturing the head-shots of the dead and the living, and by an internal sequence, found in the folded pages, composed of scenes from everyday life in Varanasi. The two sequences, while different in content and composition, are strictly connected and complementary.
The book’s pages fold, enabling a structure of two combined sequences, alternating the inside and outside of the folded pages. The outer is a flux of 108 both living and dead head-shots, a tribute to the Goddess Kali, who wears a garland of 108 slain heads around her neck. The inside is a selection of everyday scenes and stories of life in Manikarnika. Together they serve to accurately depict this singular place.
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