Thursday, 23 November 2017

Justin Hession | Pilgrims of the Kumbh

Photo © Justin Hession | All Rights Reserved
Enough already with China, I heard you say? Well, here's a post on the famed Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in India.

There are different kinds of Kumbh Melas...the so-called "Maha Kumbh" melas are the largest kahunas of these Hindu religious festivals, and the second* Maha Kumbh of this century at Allahabad (also known as Prayag by observant Hindus) concluded with a magnificent ritual bathing on the occasion of Mahashivratri on March 10, 2013...and it is this religious gathering which influenced photographer Justin Hession to publish his stunning Pilgrims of the Kumbh portraits on Exposure. 

Justin tells us he spent two weeks in a makeshift tent studio, making portraits of pilgrims drawn to these rivers' confluence. He chose a different perspective from the hundreds of photojournalists who came there to document the event, and opted to create studio style portraits against a plain black backdrop. 

The Kumbh, the largest gathering of humanity on any occasion on earth, started with a ritual bathing on January 14, 2013, and in the 55 days of its duration, it is estimated that nearly 120,000,000 pilgrims and visitors from all over India and the world had been at the confluence of the rivers Ganges, Yamuna (and the mythical Saraswati) in Allahabad.

For the millions of pilgrims, bathing in this confluence (known as Sangam) is an expression of faith in a divine power. Although there are several references to river-side festivals in ancient Indian texts, the exact age of the Kumbh Mela is uncertain.

Justin Hession has lived in Switzerland for the past ten years. Traveling the world as a backpacker in the 1990’s, his passion for the visual image was kindled, and he spent the next three years studying photography before gaining employment as a staff photographer with News Corp in Melbourne. 

As a freelance photographer for some of the biggest companies in Europe, he also started PlanetVisible, a photography collective with other photographers working on personal projects outside their regular photography assignments. 

* I attended and photographed the first Maha Kumbh mela in January 2001...and it was a mind-bending experience.