Sunday, 5 March 2017

Leonid Plotkin | The Bauls, Men of Heart

Photo © Leonid Plotkin | All Rights Reserved
I've lost count as to how many times I have featured Leonid Plotkin's work on The Travel Photographer blog. 

His latest work is Men of Heart, and is on the Bauls who are a group of mystic minstrels from Bengal (Indian State and Bangladesh). The Bauls are members of a syncretic religious sect, and a follow a distinct musical tradition. A very heterogeneous group, with many sects, but their membership mainly consists of Vaishnava Hindus and Sufi Muslims. They are often identified by their distinctive clothes and musical instruments. 

Baul music celebrates heavenly love, but does this in very earthy terms, as in declarations of love by the Baul for his female partner. Baul devotional music also transcends religion and some of its famed composers criticized the superficiality of religious divisions.

The music of the Bauls and its lyrics carry influences of the Hindu bhakti movements and a form of Sufi song exemplified by the songs of Kabir. Their music represents a long heritage of preaching mysticism through songs in Bengal.

Apart from his compelling photographs, what I like about Leonid's work is that he adds very informative captions under each of his photographs, so take the time to read each one as it'll give you a very good idea about this musical genre.

Leonid Plotikin is a freelance documentary photographer and writer. His work has appeared in publications such as The Guardian, The Observer, The Economist, Penthouse Magazine, Student Traveler, Budget Travel, Discovery Magazine, and others.


While leading the Kolkata's Cult of Durga Photo Expedition/Workshop in 2011, we were fortunate to photograph a private -and mesmerizing- performance by the Baul Satyananda and his partner Hori, a Japanese woman who was fluent in Bengali. I believe that Leonid's photograph featured on this blog post is of Satayanda. 

Here is mine.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved