Stories from the Road: Music in Stone, India

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.

It is funny the things we remember over time. Something specific always sticks with me about the people who have been influential in my life. At times these thoughts or influences find their way into my photography. In this week’s Stories from the Road, that is exactly what has happened, a thought of another compelled me to take the photograph you see above.

The photograph above was taken at the Sas Bahu Temple in Rajasthan. It is an old temple out in the middle of nowhere and does not get the flow of visitors sites such as the Jain Temple at Ranakpur get. However, I found it to be a beautiful and peaceful site. The photograph depicts a sculptural freeze on the side of a temple. The freeze just shows a row of figures. Some of the figures are standing in pairs, some female figures appear to be dancing and some of the figures are playing musical instruments. Two figures hold drums. One figure is holding a stringed instrument, the sculpture is damaged but I would guess she is holding a sitar. Then one figure holds two round disc shaped objects which I would guess to be a percussion instrument like cymbals.

The musical instruments are the reason I took this photograph. I have never been particularly interested in musical instruments. When I was 13 I did try to learn the guitar, but I did not stick with it. However, I do make photographs of musical instruments depicted in art. Why you ask? I had a professor, Dr. Furniss, whose research focus was or is musical instruments of ancient China. I had my first in depth art history class on the arts of India with Dr. Furniss. I had several other classes with her on the arts of Asia and the Near East. We still keep in touch today through Facebook. When I saw this scene I immediately thought of her and took several photographs. I even posted the photograph to her Facebook wall.

For me, what I learned in school or in books and the people who helped facilitate this knowledge inform my art making. My art making process and subject matter would be completely different if I would have had no formal education or different professors. When I find things like the musical instruments in sculpture and photograph them it is an homage to the person who inspired the photograph, so in this case Dr. Furniss. It has been 8 years since I have been in class with Dr. Furniss but I can never forget the enthusiasm with which she taught the class about Asia and her love of musical instruments.

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

By |2016-12-17T01:48:14-06:00December 27th, 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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