Impressionist Street Photographer Madhur Dhingra is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this photo essay. From the project ‘The Cosmic Dancer’. To see Madhur’s body of work, click on any image.
The images displayed here are a part of a personal journey where I search answers to some fundamental questions about life, its meaning and purpose and then later my understanding about nature of ‘Reality’. This quest is taking me to every nook and corner of India meeting sadhus, monks, philosophers, scientists and charlatans alike.
Constant interaction with these brilliant scholars made me understand that the concept of a ‘Creator God’ proposed by organized religions was a childish one. It had failed to fully comprehend that unconditioned, non-dual, eternal omnipresent force. God is not a glorified ‘personality’ sitting somewhere in the universe, directing lives of its people or attending to minute details of its day to day operations. We need to understand that the Universal Mind does not exist separately along the universe but in it and as it.
The universe was not arbitrarily created by any outside intervention but is self- born and is governed by the eternal Law of Cause and Effect. The impressions of all objects in the universe lie dormant within the inner depths of the Universal Mind, until they become active by the working of Karma. They are then projected in our familiar space-time dimension which we know as the material world. The universe is not only self-actuating but also self-determining.
The Cosmic Dancer
Krishna as a character has fascinated me right from my childhood. My family had a huge statue of Him playing a flute in our ancestral house in Old Delhi- India. On every Janmasthmi, the day Krishna was born, the whole family got together to sing devotional songs which echoed right through the moonless night. His black marble statue was bathed with milk and new clothes adorned. His impact on our family went to such an extent that all names in our family are based either on Krishna or His immediate family.
Now let me first tell you some things about Krishna. He may be an enigma to someone agnostic like me but He is God to millions, who go ecstatic even at the mere mention of His name. This great exponent of the theory of Karma in the Bhagwat Gita, Krishna has influenced Indian thought, life and ethos in myriad ways. His impact has not just been on religion and philosophy, but has seeped into literature, poetry, painting and sculpture, dance and music. I have absolutely no hesitation in saying that the whole Hindu psyche is under the grip of this one man alone.
Mischievous Krishna once stole the clothes of some gopis who were bathing in the river Yamuna and hung them on a tree. Gopis on the other hand were madly in love with this young prankster. They would run up to cuddle him while he played his flute.
There was one gopi named Radha that captivated Krishna. While all the village damsels yearned for Krishna, He was in love with Radha. Radha was extremely beautiful, pure at heart and the way she danced when He played the flute was a sight to see. She was the daughter of Vrishabhanu who lived in the nearby village of Barsana. She was ten years older to Him and was married.
Both the villages of Barsana & Nandgaon celebrate “Holi ” with extreme enthusiasm, remembering Krishna’s love for their beloved Radha. In fact, it was Krishna who started this tradition by first applying colour on Radha’s face .Women of Barsana even after thousands of years still want revenge for Krishna’s pranks whereas men of Nandgaon till date are full of mischief and eager to tease the women of Barsana.
This celebration of love has been happening year after year for thousands of years in both these villages (which stand nearby to each other ) in the form of HOLI.
My Style I, Madhur Dhingra, am an Impressionist Street Photographer, passionate about shooting random happenings and unknown faces on streets. I keep experimenting with new techniques & style to make my images unique. I shoot in- studio and on the streets, handling both studio and ambient light artistically. I am a strong believer in photography being a lifelong affair with learning and experimenting. Personally I tend to get bored soon doing similar images. As a photographer I have an inherent urge to continuously evolve both in style and technique. It started as a hobby in 1996, later to become an acute passion and profession. I studied photography at the prestigious art institute “Triveni Kala Sangam” situated in Mandi House, New Delhi. After passing out from there I started shooting product photography for all major advertising agencies in New Delhi. I have done campaigns for prestigious agencies like O&M, MAA, Interface and a host of others. I now have 25 years of photography behind me. However my real passion lies in shooting people. My exhibitions and work have been highly acclaimed and published in India , Europe & Canada & America. Photography came to me as a fulfillment of a void which has plagued me from my childhood. I was born an only child to my parents in Delhi, into a family torn apart by the aftermath that followed the Partition of India and Pakistan in the year 1947. The exodus from our ancestral land in Pakistan was so sudden and hurried that my family had no choice but to flee overnight, leaving behind everything .The only possessions they carried were the clothes which they wore on their bodies. Trains packed with men, women and children were mercilessly hacked to death by Muslim rioters all along the way. My father never really recovered from the wounds that Partition inflicted upon his psyche. Though I was born much later in Delhi, I too inherited or shall I say “made to inherit” those very insecurities from my parents and grandparents, and these remain with me till date. Emptiness and restlessness have become an integral part of me and you will find this reflecting in most of my images and style. Isolation resulting because of Covid 19 pandemic made me search rigorously for a style which I could call entirely my own. My current work is a result of that very search. Many magazines and galleries have published & displayed my recent work and called it unique. Shooting people on the streets has always fascinated me. Those strange and unknown faces with their uncharted expressions and emotions enthrall me to my very core. Going closer and closer to chaos on the Indian streets, till I myself become a part of very chaos I want to shoot, has lead me to capture my most memorable images. Each of my picture needs to tell a story on its own and also be a part of a larger story to make them all coherent. I have never had any interest in singular images no matter how good they might be. I love spontaneously created moments and real emotions, use them to create strong artistic images and then weave them into a strong storyline. Words and images then become a formidable pair in conveying what I need to say. What initially started as stark realism in street photography has now given way to abstract, impressionist and painterly imagery. Waiting endlessly for ‘the decisive moment’ does not attract me anymore. I now like to blur out images, faces, expressions and create movement in my own way. Many a times I use Intentional Camera Movement technique where I experiment with shutter speeds varying from 1/10s to 1/30s with a horizontal / vertical movement of the camera. I then process the images keeping in mind the mood & aesthetics of that particular image, using brushes, smudges, light and painterly effects to reach my visualized image. The lighting effect is mostly taken into consideration at the shooting stage depending on what mood I want to create. Going very close to the subject remains an integral part of my style. I can never ever forget the saying of Robert Capa “If your photos aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough.” I have no preconceived ideas on how I would end up editing a particular image. Each image is different and my treatment to that image goes accordingly. I am very intuitive in this process and simply follow my heart. It is something like playing with a jigsaw puzzle. Somewhere in my mind I have a rough image and then I start playing with the tools at my disposal, till there comes a time when something in me says “Stop…this is it”. I then leave that edited image for some days without looking at it. After some days when I relook at that very image and I find that I invariably need to make finer adjustments. This process takes place 2-3 times till I am finally done. Needless to say restlessness, emptiness and a void are always at play no matter how I approach my images.
All images and text © Madhur Dhingra
By Madhur Dhingra
Madhur’s Previous Contributions To Edge Of Humanity Magazine
How Changes Guide Our Existence | Rebirth, Self & Enlightenment
Death & A Methodical Cremation Ritual With A 3,000-Year-Old Pyre | Manikarnika Ghat
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Cosmic Dancer…beautiful work.