Canadian photographer Roloff Beny is often described as having “obsessed with the beauty of the world”. Reading the words he wrote about India, or even a glance at the images he brought back from a handful of adventures there confirms that pretty convincingly. Aside from the beauty he found in the visual world, Beny was also famous for his illustrious lifestyle: friends in high places, storied parties and a lavish penthouse in Rome all seem to surface often when Beny’s life is being discussed.
Most importantly, Beny was a world traveler, and India is one of a number of his works which could effectively be described as a love letter to the place it documents. One of the most impressive examples of his eye for color, scenery and natural beauty, India finds Beny exploring a place with no shortage of gorgeous landscapes, architecture, and rich culture. In some ways, these images read like an idyllic Westerner’s portrait, an aesthetically idealized version of a complex place– and you could definitely make the case. Either way though, they’re pretty spectacular shots.
“India is an individual experience and a universal encounter. There are countless ways of seeing it, many approaches to it…For me, it is white lotus, sacred cow dung plastered on trees and mud houses, myriad of naked children with eyes like dates and dazzling smiles, and always the psychedelic colours of the bejeweled women decorating the landscape and walking with the grace of ionic columns, even with babies clipped to their waists like clothespins.
Jasmine and marigolds woven in ebony hair, and the ever-present mongrel dogs which roam the vast sub-continent; near naked coastal fishermen as graceful as the Hindu gods in bronze, the hours of dusk and dawn silhouetting the Hindu gopuram and Mogul dome, the incessant odor of sandalwood…and always I shall remember the trees of India-the jacaranda in flame, the frangipani, the flowering mango.”