[ EPF 2014 SHORTLIST ]
My project aims to photograph the ‘Indian soul’ and capture the distinctive nature of this continent country, guided by the epic of the Ramayana as a common thread. My objective is to produce pictures devoided of any staging, that will reflect the imaginary realm emerging from the Ramayana and its influence in everyday life.
The Ramayana, masterpiece of world literature written in Sanskrit over 2000 years ago, is to the Asian civilisation what Homer’s Odyssey is to the European civilisation, a timeless myth that has strongly shaped the Indian identity. Its author, Valmiki, is known as the ‘Indian Shakespeare’. The Ramayana’s strength is in its apparent simplicity : it can be read as an epic tale in which humans, gods and demons encounter, covering a geographical area from the North of India to the heart of Sri Lanka. However, more than a journey, Indians draw from this text, which conveys moral and philosophical values, an ideal to which they measure their own existence.
Ramayana’s writer Valmiki had a broad knowledge of geography. The descriptions he gave about the places his characters visited has allowed the reconstitution of their itinerary and nowadays Indians visit these places to confirm the mental representation they have built up around them. But permeation between fiction and reality goes beyond geography and extends toward identity issues. The myth is ubiquitous in everyday life and its appropriation is at the core of my project.
To tell this story, I will use pictures and texts, as well as original extracts from the epic, press clipping related to modern events linked to the Ramayana and various vernacular documents. The submitted work has been done over two 3-weeks self-funded trips I did in 2013, in Uttar Pradesh and Tamil Nadu. I need to do four more trips to complete the project. The Burn Emerging Photographer Grant would allow me to focus on creation, spending as much time as possible on the ground.
Vasantha Yogananthan was born in 1985 and lives and works in Paris, France. He is passionate about human stories and dedicates himself to long-term projects.
In November 2012, Vasantha Yogananthan won the Bourse du Talent Landscape. In March 2013, he was selected among the finalists of the World Press Photo Joop Swart Masterclass. In March 2014, Piémanson’s dummy was selected among the 12 finalists of MACK First Book Award (UK). The same month, Vasantha Yogananthan was selected among the 30 photographers of the “Top 30 under Thirty” organized by Magnum Photos.
Along with his work as a photographer, Vasantha Yogananthan has co-founded a publishing house named Chose Commune. He considers the photo book to be the primary medium for research into original narrative approaches. His first book, Piémanson, was released in June 2014.