A time for solitude

A time for solitude


celebrating self Another of Ramya Reddy’s photographs.

But what about the joy of being alone, the peace of some quiet contemplation, the silent moments when we catch a slippery sense of our self and a glimpse into the true nature of existence? A moment of true solitude can amount to an eternity.

Being where we are now, and living at the point of time that we are living in, solitude is obviously a very difficult thing to touch upon, and even more difficult to hold on to. Bombarded as we are with experience packages, information overloads and social networks — real or virtual, even though we try to venture into less explored places (are there any more remaining, anyway?), true solitude, when the mind itself is stilled in a moment that is lost in the lap of nature — well, this is one of those things that our civilization has lost sync with.

Religion is what an individual does with his solitariness, Alfred North Whitehead once said. That is the perspective through which Ramya Reddy views solitude — as celebration of the self. Solitude, by choice rather than ‘aloneness’ that is thrust upon. Somebody who believes that fine art is a conscious creation, not a coincidental development, Ramya Reddy says that for her, though photography captures just an instant of time, it should have a transcendental quality about it, that makes it survive time.

Ramya is someone who loves the outdoors. Nature and travelling are as important to her as solitude itself. Someone given to daydreaming and a compulsive traveller, photography gear ranging from a Canon DSLR to the 120mm plastic Holga, and even imaging software and film are her constant companions. “I am preoccupied about the inner and outer journeys that happens during travels,” she says.

Alongside solitude and connecting to oneself, Ramya uses her photographs to get her viewers to strike a chord with the environment around us. In fact, these photographs celebrate nature as much as they celebrate solitude. In terms of composition, it is nature that hogs the photo space here. The human element is unapologetically secondary. The fact that they seem exhilarated, rather than despondent brings the focus back to the people in these landscapes. This series of photographs, which she has named ‘Timeless solitude’, is an exploration of the self with the self. “It is a journey that suggests that a true state of solitude manifests, when we are in tune with the elements of nature and with the cyclical nature of this whole process,” says Ramya.

Ramya Reddy, who happens to have studied photography at the Light and Life Academy, has also attended Sante Fe workshops, studying under the famous John Paul Coponigro, whom she regards as her mentor. “My workshop with John Paul helped me open up in a true sense to the digital dark room, which has now become an indispensable part of my creative process,” she says.

Ramya prints her photographs with Epson 9800 and Epson 3850 inkjet printers using pigmented ink (Epson Ultra Chrome HDR ink) on coated archival rag paper (Epson Ultra Smooth Fine Art paper). Pigmented ink prints are among the most beautiful print materials available today, capable as they are of reproducing fine detail, smooth gradation, dense blacks, and rich saturated colours, she feels.

In terms of technique, Ramya confesses to be quite open to the entire gamut, preferring to work around a theme and opt for techniques that would complement them. She focuses on fine art imagery, but her lens is extended to travel photography, photo illustration and even collaborations with performing artists, and her stills have been published in ‘Asian Photography’, ‘Verve’, besides three coffee table books.

Artistic evolution

Now, she is increasingly travelling towards a more de-saturated colour palette, shooting more in black and white. “Maybe it is a point in my artistic evolution,” she says. The sepia tone of these set of photographs convey a sense of lost worlds and nuances. These photographs are about the magnificent outdoors, of elements of nature, and people in these landscapes, in that order. She elaborates, “I am always trying to capture some part of the special aura about the subject or the scene that I experienced. It could be the atmosphere, the smell in the air, the warmth, anything. I keep asking myself, along with showcasing the scene in the most apt manner, how best to translate those feelings I felt through the images.”

Well, solitude is a curious thing. Enjoying it requires a connect with the self, and equally, it brings about a connect with the self. The capacity to enjoy solitude also holds a prerequisition for self-esteem, which philosophers term as “the reverence that the noble soul has, for itself”. To achieve solitude, you also need a stilled mind, and equally, solitude does spawn it too. Finally, it is about feeling so, not really about the the presence or absence of others, though physical seclusion does serve to remove distractions and make it easier for us to connect with our ‘self’, to reflect, and perceive the mysteries of the universe. 

And ultimately, solitude is inevitable, in a sense; though few of us gather the courage to seek it. When it comes down to a final analysis, or even to the final, inevitable journey, we are all on our own, though we we seek comfort in the veils of relationships. But then again, solitude and relationships need not be mutually exclusive. As Simone Weil makes this interesting observation: ‘Do not allow yourself to be imprisoned by any affection. Keep your solitude. The day, if it ever comes, when you are given true affection, there will be no opposition between interior solitude and friendship, quite the reverse. It is even by this infallible sign that you will recognize it.’ As people, we may form a society. But as souls, we stand alone.