REFLECTIONS ON SOUTH INDIA
Images & Words by Andrew Jacona
It can be challenging writing about a place and experiences, it somewhat feels like being blindfolded and trying to describe an elephant by only being able to touch its ears. Settling on one interpretation of events can be limiting, which is why it’s beneficial to keep an open mind to different ways of seeing.
As a photographer, I try to focus my abilities towards a technical exploration of the visual qualities of light and subject matter, and it’s through this that I hope to get a glimpse of the deeper realms of a people and place. I find the more you step into the unknown the more you get to experience.
From a literary point of view, I love to read the work of great travel writers who can show you ideas, places and people from different perspectives. They offer new possibilities for future travel experiences as well as allowing you to better appreciate the places you have traveled in the past.
There’s an idea in Robert Macfarlane’s excellent book, The Old Ways, which talks about inner landscapes being powerfully shaped by the outer. As a traveler and photographer, it’s those kinds of experiences I want to turn into images, but it’s not always obvious when those moments happen, and sometimes you need to create them.
Travelling through South India
I experienced South India as a vast world in its terrain and cultures. It was a world of water in all its changing forms, a magical place where you can hear hints of the first human languages through the unwritten chants of the Brahmins. Fascinatingly, the closest equivalent to these sounds come from nature in the form of bird songs. It’s what I think most people love about India, that feeling of stepping through a doorway into life as it was in the past. It seems they have brilliantly been able to preserve their culture and faith whilst taking what’s useful from the West.
If anything, the trip to the South expanded my experience and knowledge of India. It’s one thing to watch a documentary or read a book but there’s no substitute for experiencing a time and place with all of your senses.
I remember being fascinated by how different religions existed in the same social spheres; there were times you would see Hindus praying and visiting Christian churches and Christians attending Hindu places of worship.
I always enjoy connecting with people when I can, it makes you happy and sometimes you meet people that leave a deep impression. I had a few experiences that come to mind and mostly they are just very simple interactions.
When someone allows you to take their portrait, developing a rapport with them allows space for trust, respect and love to enter, and I’m always left with a feeling of gratitude when I’m allowed into someones life in this way. I don’t take it for granted, and sometimes there’s a sadness there because I’d like to sit and talk for longer.
I definitely would travel to South India again because there is so much more we didn’t have time to experience. Places that come to mind which I’d visit again are definitely the tea factories of the hill stations of the Western Ghat’s. A dream experience would be to camp out on top of Gingee Fort during the rainy season, just to experience the changing light and weather.
I’d love to travel to see more of the temples in Tamil Nadu—especially the quieter ones—as well as visiting Rameswaram and driving out and camping at Dhanushkodi Point, just a stones throw from Sri Lanka.
Sydney-based film photographer with a passion for travel, Andrew has been exploring the world and its people through his lens, indefinitely searching for the beyond-physical beauty of the places he visits.