Lord Shiva’s Necklace

Pilgrims were chatting loudly on the quay in Omkareshwar, the holy city of Shiva, going there and back along the boats on the shore. Twilight was getting thicker, almost as thick as masala tea, and I was photographing the melting away light, in meditative mood. Shadows and white pilgrim clothes were getting almost transparent, and the evening was slowly turning into a dream.

Exposed. Already packing the camera, only a metre away from my feet I noticed a snake of shocking beauty. Shining from luminescent green to polished copper, it was flowing away like time. I did not even have a chance to get frightened, so quick it was disappearing in the dark. Watching our step, we returned back to our guesthouse.

Willing to warn the guesthouse owner, I told him about this encounter – a snake on the quay, among people. “Lucky you are”, – he said. “Yes”, – I agreed. – “It could have bitten me”. “This was no snake”, – he replied. – “This was Lord Shiva’s necklace, he sign of good luck. Lucky you are”.

I remembered that Lord Shiva was traditionally depicted with a snake around his neck, like a necklace. And anyway, I was lucky indeed and thanked Lord Shiva.

When you get to India, the crucial thing is not to think that what you see is the essence. A snake is not a snake and a human is not only a human, and all-in-all these are demonstrations of some other substances, which could stay unnoticed in the dust, turmoil and smell mix. That is how it most often happens: in unknown places we tend to judge too quick on appearances, placing the new into the familiar set of notions.

Lord Shiva gave me to feel somehow, hat a good photograph is the one where the subject is just an envelope covering somewhat more profound. And while choosing Indian photographs, I tried to remember his necklace.

Gallery “India, 2005-2009”

Tags: , ,


On the Homepage and in the Galleries you can hear the music by my friends Alex Rostotsky and Maral Yakshieva, I am very grateful to them for their sound:


Homepage –  Anthony Braxton (saxophone), Maral Yakshieva (piano), from the album Improvisations. Duo. 2009



14 pieces of India – Maral Yakshieva, improvisation on Rabindranath Tagore’s poem “Life”

The Pushkar Scrapbook – Alex Rostotsky, “Sphinx’ dream”

China – Maral Yakshieva (piano), Baby Sommer (vargan), improvisation

White Nights – Maral Yakshieva, “Lullaby”

A Night in Remedios – Alex Rostotsky, “Ballet of the Unhatched Chicks”

La Habana: Portraits on the Road – Alex Rostotsky, “Gardens of Alcazar”

Cuba, 2006 – Alex Rostotsky, “Promenade with Mussorgsky”

Airplanes Macro – Improvising Trio: Michael Welch (percussion), Dough Mathews (bass), Maral Yakshieva (piano)

Khabarovsk, Portraits, 2011 – Alex Rostotsky, “Russian-Zulu”

India, 2005-2009 Alex Rostotsky, Ganga (L. Subramaniam)


A photographer can “dig” inside the others and inside himself. To look inside the others can be eventually helped by making their portraits, and to look inside yourself – by writing your diary. If you do both things in parallel, you can get a strange mix of the open and the hidden, of what you actually saw and what was there in your head concerning what you saw.

“The Pushkar Scrapbook” was made at one of the biggest camel fairs in the world, among hordes of tourists – who made you dream of a visual isolation.

Making portraits, I was very close to people, and as I cannot speak their language, we were sharing the whole by means of sight. In these moments it was important for me to step away from the disturbing surroundings with the ones who were photographed and to be alone in the frame.

While making a scrapbook like a diary, I was trying to reconstruct the atmosphere in a more controlled, but also a more subjective mode, using the widely spread elements of Indian visual culture: woodblock printing, drawings – including those of traditional culture animals, stickers, postcards, drips of paint, my own sketches of Pushkar, stamps, flowers and leaves – all those were assembled on colored paper with some author’s notes on what was up day to day.

“The Pushkar Scrapbook” in the portrait part tries to look at local people isolated from their surroundings, and as a scrapbook it shows how a stranger imagines what is around – superficially, but colorful.

PDF from Digital Photo magazine (Russian):


Tags: , ,