Book Two of the French photographer's ambitious retelling of The Ramayana has been nominated for one of Arles' big prizes
The Promise is book two in Vasantha Yogananthan’s ambitious seven-book project, A Myth of Two Souls. Inspired by the epic story The Ramayana, which was written by the Sanskrit poet Valmiki in around 300 BC, The Myth will retrace The Ramayana’s route from North to South India, and show scenes from everyday life that evoke its imagery.
Yogananthan is producing one book for each chapter of the original story; he started the project with a book called Early Times, which helped him win the ICP Infinity Award Emerging Photographer of the Year. Book two, The Promise, has been nominated for the 2017 Author Book Award at Les Rencontres d’Arles (along with image-makers such as Antoine Agata, JH Engstrom, and Roe Ethridge).
Throughout The Myth, Yogananthan is working with three different types of image – landscapes, hand-painted staged portraits, and illustrated black-and-white photographs. The hand-painting is done on large-format black-and-white photographs by Indian artist Jaykumar Shankar. In the illustrated photographs, he has been working with two artists specialising in the tradition of Madhubani painting.
“In Yogananthan’s hands, The Ramayana story becomes a palimpsest, a document to be recycled, retooled and portrayed in exciting new ways,” wrote Brennavan Sritharan for BJP in an interview with Yogananthan published in our July 2016 issue. “The binary between truth and falsehood falls away, leaving behind a creative space in which to make new work.
‘I realised the distinction between truth and falsehood wasn’t important,’ says Yogananthan. ‘This was an important discovery for me, that this is where my photographs should lie – in this in-between world between physical reality and the imagined’.”