Portraits, expats and the sense of being in India

Photo series

Ihad more than six marvellous years, that’s it. I have to put it behind me.
 
Sometimes you finish to read a good book, so you feel like reading it again, but it’s not possible, the magic isn’t the same,” reads one quote, the other, delves into the mysticism that India invokes, “You feel like being in the centre of something, being present, living something, really. Life is everywhere, at every street corner.” 

Forty seven-year-old businessmen Francois and the 22 year-old student Adele may have different feelings to sum up their Indian experience but what unites them is the photo series ‘Before Leaving Indian Snapshots’ on expats who immersed themselves in the Indian way of life. 

Hotel backgrounds, a box of Kellogg’s or books were some of the props that they sat amidst, giving a glimpse of their life in India. 

“Captured around the objects or props that they believe defined their Indian experience, I clicked single photo portraits of expats towards the end of their stay in India. What I didn’t reveal was the set of questions that I was going to use in the same photo-shoot sessions to run along with their portraits,” says photographer Marie-Caroline Senlis. 
 
“Only a few said no for this series,” says the shutterbug who worked on this series for three long years.
 
The exhibition runs excerpts from those interviews along with the portraits as it takes you through their experience where they tell stories, talk about themselves and leave you with a slice of an expat’s life in India. 
 
Nostalgic, beautiful and endearing, those were not the only experiences she gleaned as someone went on to label “Delhi a mortuary city. It’s puritanical and dirty.”

To this the photographer, says, “People had contradictory stories to share. They are different and so are their views. While a few said India transformed their life; someone compared it to Chartes and Versailles, and the impression that one gets, when one arrives in a very special place. It would have been so boring to only collect similar stories.Wouldn’t it be?”  

Combining the interviews and portraits of 43 expats from 12 different nationalities, she went on to highlight the monochromatic pictures with a hint of colour. 

“I do not see such hand painted pictures back in France, but I think colour photography came later to India, so you find a lot many pictures like that here. I wanted to give that touch to this series, so I have used ink pens to highlight and colour these black and white pictures.”
 
Even in its form, the photo series has an essence of Indian-ness to it.
 
The photo-exhibition will be on view at Galerie Romain Rolland, Alliance Francaise de Delhi till April 11.
 
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