A stunning book of photographs focuses on India’s diversity and bares its soul

By Tara Katir, Kauai, Hawaii

Today’s India is a mesmerizing blend of modern-day city excitement, ancient village equanimity and multicultural tension. For those who have not spent enough time in the “holy land of Bharat” to take it for granted, the country’s kaleidoscopic diversity can be overwhelming. Lindsay Hebberd, an internationally acclaimed photographer and producer of educational photographic exhibitions, helps synthesize India’s mishmash magic in her comprehensive book, Cultural Portraits of India, (205 pages, Cultural Portraits Productions, Inc., USA 1998, us$65.00).

Originally assembled to commemorate India’s fiftieth anniversary of independence in 1998, the photos of Portraits, which represent over ten years of Hebberd’s life and photography in India, take the viewer on a extensive journey throughout the country while focusing on seven themesÑIndependence, Landscapes, People, Daily Life, Religion, The Arts and Architecture. Essays by Mira Kamdar provide descriptive commentary.

In India there are seven major religions: Hinduism, Islam, Christianity, Jainism, Buddhism, Zoroastrianism and JudaismÑas well as a multitude of village faiths. There are 17 official languages and nearly 900 dialects. By the year 2020, Hebberd speculates, India will surpass China as the most populated nation on Earth. Even now among its very dissimilar population, every possible body height and shape, every conceivable skin and eye color can be found represented somewhere. Certainly, the term “multicultural” was never more aptly applied than to the people of India.

Capturing all this on film would be a challenge for any professional photographer, but Hebberd does well even while including a visual feast of India’s environmental and geographical vastness. But it is her stunning photographs of ordinary people that allow us an unguarded, intimate peek into the soul of Bharat. Marigold vendors standing knee deep in flowers, a dignified Rajput gentleman proudly wearing his colorful turban, a laughing girl decorating her family’s house for Dipavali all these sweetly capture the sense of India?s timeless existence. From a simple banyan tree adorned with flags and bells to the lavish Golden Temple of Amritsar, the lens of Hebberd captures, as a fact of life, India?s ingrained perspective that God is everywhere. Here in the holy land, it is difficult if not impossible to separate the sacred from the profane when such a deep spirituality so permeates even ordinary life. This is the elusive spirit that Hebberd?s book so successfully embraces. More than a tribute, it is a sacramental testimony. Cultural Portraits of India is available for sale only on line. Visit: www.culturalportraits.com [http://www.culturalportraits.com].