Varanasi, the spiritual capital of India, is probably the last holy and immaculate place left in the world. Legend asks that Hindu people cross the entire country to die in Varanasi, sometimes by foot for the poorest, and have their remnants burned there. The family of the deceased pray on a hill near the pyre, while the deceased, wrapped in linens and flowers, is washed in the sacred waters of the Ganges. The Japanese photographer Kenro Izu fell for this funereal ceremony—one at incredible odds with modernity—when he was invited by a family to observe the three-hour ceremony. His latest series of photographs, on view at the Howard Greenberg in New York, is an exploration of sacred places for Indian Hindus, Sikhs and Muslims.
Izu brought a large-format camera with glass plates on his voyage, equipment suggestive of the 19th century. His poetic photographs let the buildings and sacred trees stand out in all their majesty, intertwining living things and water, and giving new life to decorative flowers. These are simple portraits of classical landscapes, scenes illuminated with prayers, captured in different cities across the Indian subcontinent. Among the subjects, there is the figure of the sadhu, wandering nomads who have given up daily life and material goods, living off alms in the forests, caves and temples of India. The joyous aura of a man dressed in orange and yellow clothing with terracotta jewels and long hair appears here in black-and-white.
India – Where Prayer Echoes invites the visitor to ask existential questions that arise from the experiences of Kenro Izu. In their finesse, these photographs capture Indian spirituality in both time and space. What we glimpse here is priceless: a respect for people and things.
Kenro Izu, India – Where Prayer Echoes
From January 10th to February 23rd, 2013
Howard Greenberg Gallery
41 East 57th Street