Stories from the Road: River View

Stories from the Road is a collection of stories about my own photographic adventures in South Asia. Sometimes the stories are exciting and sometimes mundane and at times emotional. This section deals with vernacular photography and the way we all experience the photographs we see. What they meant when we took them and what they mean over time.

This whole year has been crazy and full of change. I find myself moving through different stages at a rapid pace. Thus when I look at this photograph, I ask myself, “What was I thinking about when I took the photo?” It is strange; this is a thought I have never had when looking at an image. The photograph is composed in four horizontal sections. There is land in the foreground which takes up about 1/3rd of the photograph. The river, also consumes about 1/3rd of the photograph. The last 1/3rd of the photograph or the background of the photograph contains a small strip of land and the vastness of the sky. The land of the foreground is populated with a few trees, a platform with benches on it, a red and white cow and some other odds and ends. The river is calm. The bank on the opposite side of the river is sandy with trees behind. There are also some structural elements, a wall and tower. In the distance there are communication tower which reach into the sky. The sky is bright blue with three small clouds. There may be a few more very faint clouds in the sky.

I am sure as I looked out at the landscape I had multiple thoughts. I know I thought about the myth of the black Taj. This myth tells that Shah Jahan was going to build his own mausoleum on the other side of the river. It is told that his resting place would be a replica of the Taj in black marble. However, archaeologists say they have found no evidence of this and that it is more likely the structures on the opposite bank were to continue the garden. Having the Taj Mahal’s garden extend on the other side of the river would place the Taj Mahal at the center, thus making the Taj the center of the universe in the cosmological garden. (The Islamic vision of heaven is a lush garden which the gardens around the Taj Mahal represent.)

I am sure I questioned my own life as well. When I went to Agra I was coming back from a brief trip to Kathmandu, Nepal (you can read about it in these posts brass objects, small farm and a storefront in Patan.) As life seems to change more regularly here than in the States, I am sure I had thoughts of my life here, questioning what I was doing here, questioning if it would work out. For now I am still here and some things are going really well. Other things not so much, but those are stories for another platform. What I love about this photograph is the fact that I ask myself what I was thinking about. I love that I am in South Asia long enough for it to sink in and become part of my skin and be able to question it the same way I would the States. I am glad it took me so long to make it to Agra and the Taj Mahal. It was definitely a different experience because I have been living here.

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Photo Focus: Anushree Fadnavis
Stories from the Road: Qibla Wall, Qutab Minar Complex, Delhi, India

By |2018-10-15T12:13:15-05:00December 13th, 2016|India|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

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