OF RIVER AND LOST LANDS[2011 – ONGOING]
‘Of River and Lost lands’ is a series of photographs that surveys River Padma (Ganges) and the waterborne land of Bangladesh. Made over a period of 11 years and continuing, the series describes a complex relationship of intimacy and ruthlessness between nature and humans on the margins.
Over the years, the life and ecology of rural Bengal have seen slow decay. It is a story of loss which begins with a hostile river resulting in vast erosion and frequent floods. With these occurrences, the landscape disappears and along with it, its many ways of life. The residents witness the river making abrupt changes in its course, drowning their village, therefore being forced to migrate to other parts of the banks, which too can erode without warning. Overnight a stretch of land will collapse with houses, farmlands and livestock, often flowing off in a different direction. Somewhere else shallow mud banks (chars) will arise along with the influx of new sediments. Within years the shore forms new land with the prospects to restart and build new communities for the ecological refugees.
In the dawn of a new century, the story takes a turn as humans intervene in grotesque measures. As uncontrolled sand mining proliferates, erosion too increases at a fast pace. Masses of land vanish into the river and the ecosystem of the river changes in ways that cannot be undone. Now the River is no longer a source of hostility, rather the casualty.
The extensive series is marked by an overcast atmosphere, and by isolated figures emerging, coming to terms with what has passed or awaiting the next deluge. With a steady and intent observation, the places often feel sacred and still, the horizon dissolves as the skies blend with the stream of river, creating a grey, melancholic backdrop for these characters. The photographs use the grandeur of landscape, while alluding to a consistent hint of intimacy.
Most places seen in these photographs have ceased to exist. As a result, the photographs survive as visual documents of these vanished and vanishing lands, referring to the consequences of human intervention on the environment and the fragility of our future.