Wednesday, 7 May 2014

Andy Richter | Kumbh Mela


Photo © Andy Richter-All Rights Reserved
"I wanted to go deeper and connect with the Kumbh from a participant’s point of view. I wanted to see what it was like from the inside, to really experience this massive gathering, and photograph that. It was essential to slow down and spend time with people." -Andy Richter (The Leica Camera Blog)
The Kumbh Mela is the one pilgrimage-festival that seems to really emit a powerful magnetic force, gathering not only Hindu devotees, but all sorts of people including photographers and photojournalists from every corner of the world.  It's one of the world's most extraordinary religious events.

Its main objective is to bathe in the Ganges, as it's said that bathing in sacred rivers during the annual pilgrimage breaks the circle of life & death, and allows Hindus to attain moksha. While attended by millions of authentic pilgrims and devotees, it also attracts an enormous number of charlatans, magicians and fake sadhus who are surrounded by the unwary, the gullible, the curious and naturally, the tourists.

I know this first hand having attended and photographed the 2001 Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad, which is reported to have attracted approximately 60 million people, making it the largest gathering in the world at that time.

I am pleased to feature Andy Richter's Maha Kumbh Mela, which was mostly photographed with a Leica M9 with a 35 mm Summilux. One of his essay's photographs shows a mass of pilgrims crossing a pontoon bridge, where I also walked, and I still recall the sensation of being shoulder to shoulder with this moving mass of humanity, giving me the impression I was standing on a flat escalator.

Andy tells a fine story on The Leica Camera Blog, and mentions how he was surrounded by the naked babas bathing in the river...and meeting Alex Webb at the same spot.