Bhutan, a landlocked country between India and China, has always been a sort of mystery to people outside it. Except its picturesque landscape, its kings and queens and Gross National Happiness index, we really do not know much about the country and its people. It has somehow always remained just a tourist destination for most of us.
Bhutan Echoes, a photographic series by Delhi based photographer Serena Chopra,captures the essence of Bhutan in its truest sense, something that has been missing from the public eye for a long time. Having first visited the country in 2002, Serena realised there is more to the country than just the beautiful landscape, making her travel to the interiors of the country as well as the hidden valleys, where she lived as a guest in many Bhutanese homes. For twelve long years, Chopra photographed Bhutan, about which she says, “My inner experience of Bhutan, with mycamera at hand, has been very special: a journey that in some way has dissolved much within me, enabling me to reveal and expand myself”.Her photographic series is intensely personal in nature, with an intimate feeling that affects almost all of the images. Only a deep understanding of the Bhutanese people, their culture and their ways of life where tradition meets modernity, secularism meets religion, myth meets reality, and of course, the huge contrast between the towns and the far away isolated villages in the valley.
Consisting of images primarily from 2004 and 2005, Serena’s picturesevoke a very deep understanding of the changing times and the long periods of stagnation in Bhutan. From breath-taking landscapes to the hope in the eyes of the youth and tribal communities, Chopra perfectly captures the essence of a country undergoing a transformation, and the changing paradigms of the population as a direct consequence of it. From photographing teenagers in a bar with a snooker board to photographing tribal communities in their homes, Chopra’s work is important in today’s times where modernity and development are slowly erasing communities from the face of the earth.
Serena Chopra’s exhibition will be up till 7th October at Harrington Streets Arts centre as part of Tasveer’s eleventh season. Do not miss it!