TPhotographer Mitch Epstein fell in love with the idea of India long before he went there. As a young man from the small town of New England, he watched Ravi Shankar play the sitar at the Woodstock Festival and paid $ 35 to be introduced to Transcendent Meditation, inspired by Beatles music videos at the ashram. maharishi. It wasn’t until his late twenties, after studying photography with leading American street photographer Garry Winogrand in New York City, that he truly explored the subcontinent with his first wife, Indian filmmaker Mira. Nair, and found the pictures to match his imagination.
Between 1978 and 1989, Epstein made eight long trips to India and took tens of thousands of photos, while also collaborating on three of Nair’s films (Until there from India, India Cabaret and Salaam Bombay!). This photo was taken during the annual Republic Day parade in New Delhi in 1984, the year Indira Gandhi was assassinated, and is included in a new retrospective book of Epstein’s work in India. The intimacy of her crowd scene is made up of two relationships: the first is between her camera and the man with the shawl with exuberant patterns matching the balloons behind. The second is that loose embrace between the two young men to the left of the group, who appear to have wandered into this scene from another movie set.
Epstein arrived at such images with the eye of an insider and a stranger. “Through my marriage and family life, I gained an Indian perspective – never fully of course, but more than if I had been a tourist.” Still, he notes, it took him three decades to really see the India he photographed. Her book was a containment project, searching thousands of contact sheets for images that match the colors of her memory.