Photo of a woman outside Varanasi, Uttar Pradesh, India. This portrait of a local was taken in a village. Despite India's many urban centres, the nation is still overwhelmingly rural, with an estimated seventyfive percent of the population living in the countryside.
On the outskirts of Varanasi, Kristian Bertel searched for local people for his pictures. This woman was preparing some food with her red scarf around her head. She was looking directly into his camera. Curious and aware of the presence of the photographer, her eyes were telling more than words.
A village on the outskirts of Varanasi
Varanasi is regarded as a holy city by Buddhists and Jains, and is the holiest place in the world in Hinduism. The culture of Varanasi is closely associated with the River Ganges and the river's religious importance. The city has been a cultural and religious centre in North India for several thousand years.
Man bathing near his home in the village. Argueably the biggest issue to the public health in India is inadequate access to clean drinking water and proper sanitation. With the population set to doble in fortyfive years, agricultural, industrial and domestic water usage are all expected to spiral. Ground water is being removed at an uncontrolled rate, which will result in a drop of the supplies of drinking water.
Color and character
Travel photography is a passion for the photographer, whose latest portraits from the Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh region of India are published in several series online. What he finds interesting is the cultural everyday life. Traditionally, Indian villages follow the panchayat or headman system, which offers equal opportunity to women and men to be a part of and contribute to the village administration. Village life in India is simple. The village folk not only dress simply, but also display simplicity in their meals and work life.
Photo of the Varuna River. The Varuna River is a minor tributary of the Ganges River. It is named after the god Varuna.
Village life in general
A village is a clustered human settlement or community, larger than a hamlet but smaller than a town, with a population ranging from a few hundred to a few thousand. Though often located in rural areas like in this blog post with the photos near Varanasi, the term urban village is also applied to certain urban neighborhoods. Villages are normally permanent, with fixed dwellings, however, transient villages can occur. Further, the dwellings of a village are fairly close to one another, not scattered broadly over the landscape, as a dispersed settlement. In the past, villages were a usual form of community for societies that practise subsistence agriculture, and also for some non-agricultural societies.
The Industrial Revolution attracted people in larger numbers to work in mills and factories, the concentration of people caused many villages to grow into towns and cities. This also enabled specialization of labor and crafts, and development of many trades. As the photographer has seen, the trend of urbanization continues, though not always in connection with industrialization. Villages have been eclipsed in importance as units of human society and settlement. Although many patterns of village life have existed, the typical village was small, consisting of perhaps five to thirty families. Homes were situated together for sociability and defence, and land surrounding the living quarters was farmed. Traditional fishing villages were based on artisan fishing and located adjacent to fishing grounds.
Activities at the banks of the Varuna River. In Hindu mythology, Varuna continued to be considered the god of all forms of the water element, particularly the oceans. Rivers are also affected by the runoff as mentioned earlier in this blog post. And the Ganges, which also flows to the Varuna, is among the most polluted rivers on earth.
The approach in his photography
When the photographer is working on location in India he always exercises sensitivity when taking photos of people, especially of women. "- My generally philosophy is to strive to be original in my approach to taking pictures. My aim is to tell a story and to make the viewer connect or identity with that particular image. It could be anything, from a young woman with a striking, haunting face, to idle landscapes in remote regions of Uttar Pradesh. I think that there is beauty in the most mundane things - it is reavealing that is the key. It is all about making my ideas for a photo happen, and to photograph with respect", the photographer says.
A local day worker preparing straps for a rickshaw. Most rickshaw pullers in the Indian capital are migrant laborers who have come to the city in the hope of earning a living for their families in poverty-stricken rural areas.
Rickshaws in India
Rickshaws or rickshas are a mode of human-powered transport, where a runner draws a two-wheeled cart which seats one or two persons. Rickshaws are commonly made with bamboo. The word rickshaw came from Asia where they were mainly used as means of transportation for the social elite. In recent times the use of rickshaws has been discouraged or outlawed in many countries due to concern for the welfare of rickshaw workers. A cycle-rickshaw is a pedal cycle with two rear wheels, supporting a bench seat for passengers. Most have a canopy that can be raised in wet weather, of lowered to provide extra space for luggage. Most of the big cities have passed out the cycle-rickshaw, but they are still the main means of local transport in many smaller towns. As with taxis and autorickshaws, fares must be agreed upon in advance. Locals invariably pay lower fares than foreigners, but considering the effort put in by the rickshaw-wallahs, it is hard to begrudge them a fem extra rupees.
Some of the village houses are made of bricks in this village in Uttar Pradesh. Known as UP, and often refered to as the cow belt or Hindu belt, India's most populated state covers the vast, sprawling plain of northern India.
India's rural houses
Many of the rural poor work the fields in agriculture and are employed by the few landowners who reside in their villages. Huts are usually constructed from mud blocks, roofs are thatched and the floors are covered with a mud and cow-dung paste that serves as a disinfectant. Houses supplied by the government are constructed with cement blocks or bricks, the floor is cement, and the roof is made of concrete or asbestos. Usually there is only one room in the house, but in some cases a half-wall may be built to separate out the kitchen.
A mother is bathing her child. Villagers begin the day with baths in the makeshift baths and eat only after worship at home and at the village temple. The women in the village are wearing saris. Indian fashion varies from one village to another village, from one city to another city. India's fashion heritage is rich in tradition, vibrant in colors and prepossessing.
Traveling with a camera
Kristian Bertel is a passionated travel photographer, who photograph life as he sees it through his lens. The work mostly consist of portraits, like in this blog post a portrait of the life in a village. "- To travel broadens my view of the world, where I get an insight look of how life is in different parts of the world", he says. His images from India have been shown online as photo essays - documenting many aspects of the daily life particularly in India. His photographic work consists of portraits of village life in India, like in this blog post with pictures from a village just outside the city of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India. He works as a travel photographer and he is available for editorial and travel assignments all over Europe, Asia, Africa and in the Middle East. For further information and inquiries please:
Contact the photographer
More photographs from India
If you are interested to see more photos and imagery from India, you can see one of the slideshows, which also appears on the photographer's website.
See the slideshow | press here