Sunday, 28 December 2014

Sara Hylton | Holy Town

Photo © Sara Hylton-All Rights Reserved
Vrindavan; the holy little town not far from from Mathura, Krishna's birthplace, and a refuge for Bengali widows, which earned it the nickname of 'city of widows. I visited it some years ago, and -against the odds- was able to photograph at the ashrams where these impoverished 'cast-offs' congregate to earn a few rupees by singing devotional verses for visiting pilgrims. I called them White Shadows because widows in India have to wear plain white saris, with no adornments whatsoever.

During my March 2014 photo expedition-workshop to Varanasi and Vrindavan, my group and I were not allowed to photograph there due to stricter regulations, possibly triggered by bad publicity. It is estimated there are about 20,000 widows living on the streets of Vrindavan, many of whom have spent over 30 years there.

Sara Hylton spent about a year documenting a small community of these widows in Vrindavan, and produced Holy Town, a gallery of 15 large color photographs of these women, achieving a remarkable degree of intimacy with them. As Sara tells us, their story is one of perseverance, resilience and humanity in an environment of poverty and neglect.

Sara is a Canadian documentary and portrait photographer based between Brooklyn, New York and New Delhi, India. She first became interested in photography in 2011 while working with an international humanitarian organization in Uganda. She began taking photographs to document the organization’s work in the field, and discovered a love of visual storytelling. She's especially drawn to portrait photography as a way to share people’s stories.

She holds a Master of Arts in International Conflict Studies from Kings College London, and also recently completed a post-graduate certificate in Photojournalism and Documentary from the International Center of Photography (ICP).

I normally don't include my work on blog posts about other photographers, but I make an exception here since the more exposure given to the plight of these widows the quicker their circumstances might improve. "White Shadows" on my Vimeo channel.