India must surely be a candidate for the most photogenic country in the world. Nigel Atherton takes a trip via this luscious visual feast of a book
Andreas Bitesnich is one of the world’s leading photographers of beauty and fine-art nudes, with numerous books and exhibitions to his name. So we have all the basic ingredients for a great book. In fact, this is a reprint of a book that was originally released in 2011, so you may well already have it, or at least seen it. You would certainly remember it if you dropped it on your foot with its 256 large-format pages printed on heavyweight matt paper.
Bitesnich made three trips to different parts of India between 2006 and 2008.
With the pictures organised by the regions he visited, all the subjects that you would expect to find in a book about India are present and correct here: the snake charmers, street sellers, elephants, food, trains, railway stations, people bathing in the Ganges. India’s rich Moghul and colonial architecture is well represented too. Indeed the book opens with an image of the Taj Mahal.
Wideangle views and candid street shots alternate with close-up portraits of people who stare intently into the lens.
Around half of the photos in the book are in punchy black & white or sepia – which for a country as bright and vibrant as India was a bold creative decision – and the rest are in colour but with muted, green-tinged hue. There’s a lovely tonality to the images, with the deep rich, velvety blacks enhanced by the matt paper. Bitesnich describes his approach as earthy, direct and honest.
‘People tell me that you can almost smell India when you look at the book,’ he says. There’s certainly a smell, though it’s more of ink than exotic spices, but we get his point. ‘My pictures are what India decided to show me of herself,’ he continues. ‘It is a land full of extremes, surprises, contradictions and scents.
‘Capturing those scents in photos is nearly impossible, though that didn’t stop me from trying.’
India by Andreas H Bitesnich