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Pushka Ghats © Malcolm Glover

Pushka Ghats © Malcolm Glover

Malcolm Glover’s India

People fall in love with different countries – India and Africa, particularly, engender powerful emotions. India has certainly got under the skin of photographer Malcolm Glover. He has been visiting the country for over ten years, partly to escape the English winter but more for the sheer joy of that chaotic, colourful, teeming country, the spirit of  which he has captured in his distinctive photographs. Those images now make up a solo exhibition at A Wave of Dreams in St Leonards. HOT’s Lauris Morgan-Griffiths stepped in to Glover’s soulful interpetation of that extraordinary place.

This exhibition is an insight into the country which is not the classic tourist image. There is no Taj Mahal in sight. As one person at the private view said, “This is India. The real India.” It is an observation of a working, busy, messy country that works in spite of its massive, deprived population.

Glover’s technique is inimitable.

Storyteller

He is a storyteller producing panoramic landscapes of various storylines within it. “It’s like sculpting in nature, stretching out time and place”, two days or a few miles compressed into one image. His photographs are  made up of a myriad of  images, which are later put together to form the final picture. They could be taken over several hours and days, even over several miles. “It’s exciting, you don’t really know what you’re getting.

Transorting trucks nd drivers Canacona Station © Malcolm Glover

Transorting trucks nd drivers Canacona Station © Malcolm Glover

“tt is a sculptural method of building up an image, putting things in and taking them away.” While photographing over several hours people come and people go. Time is not linear, they have all been in that place, though not necessarily at the same time, and are given a place in Glover’s  storyscape.

“I  don’t always really know what it will look like until I get the raw material back to the studio and I begin to ‘stitch’ it together.” He is collating time and distance, compressing it into one image. Consequently, editing is almost the hardest part; having to reject some of his treasured images in service to the final vision. “I fight with myself as to what to keep in and what has to go.” But he definitely knows when it is done – when the final image meets what is in his mind’s eye.

The exhibition is principally about water, the life blood of any country, but in India it is particularly so. In Varanasi, the Ganges is a multi-purpose river used by everyone; people wash themselves, their clothes, their water buffaloes, they pray, they send off their dead, tourists visit. The image is an amalgam of all that life. It even incorporates a floating religious icon that probably freed itself from a funeral pyre to begin a new life story.

Pushka Ghats © Malcolm Glover

Pushka Ghats © Malcolm Glover

The train, Second Sitting, is a composite of a train. The train comes into the station, stops, people leave, people get in; the windows to the train are a composite of several stoppages. A  journey can take a passenger several hours to days, so there is a life continuing in each separate carriage. Through the windows Glover shows small vignettes of life: people sleeping, eating, looking bored.

But how did he manage to photograph in some of these places, particularly the religious sites like the Pushka Ghats? He took some previous projects as reference material but when preparing to photograph at the Ghats, one of the priests approached him and said he  shouldn’t be filming there. When asked what he could do about it Glover was told 1,000 rupees (about £12) would sort it out. The money was handed over and Glover continued. In the image the cow is  jigsawed together from about four different photographs. But it is the details that Glover treasures – the rag used as a plug to stop the water draining away, the family photograph.

The final photograph may be 10 feet long, your eyes scan the image taking in all the detail, like a real panorama, or how one views a film. So it is no surprise to find that film is the direction he is headed.

Filming

Indian Glass Worker © Malcolm Glover

Indian Glass Worker © Malcolm Glover

The film, Breathe, is a  documentary, yet not a documentary in the normal genre. It is  about glass blowers in Firozabad, the centre of India’s glass-making industry. There are no interviews, individuals stand in front of the camera, immobile but definitely part of the drama. The film vividly shows a choreographed dance of the various skills and tasks that make up the madness and cacophony of glass making.

The tension and the danger is palpable  as the workers almost casually toss molten glass from one maker to another. One missed throw or catch and someone could be severely injured. Made in collaboration with the glass artist Chris Bird-Jones, they filmed over three weeks. Bird-Jones explains, “We wanted the film to be a metaphor for India, the coordinated and disorganised dance going on in and out of the chaos. And it works.”

An earlier film was his emotional Congregation. It will be interesting to see more of Glover’s films where he creates a living environment with the clink and clank of sound. However, it is all already there embedded in the imagination of his stilled panoramas. All you need is to stand still and listen.

Malcolm Glover’s INDIA is on until 30 September at A Wave of Dreams Arts Lab, 48 Kings Road, St Leonards-on-Sea TN37 6DY. Open Thursday-Sunday, 12-6pm.There will be an Artist’s Talk at the Wave of Dreans on 12 September, 6.30 for 7pm.

Two previous HOT articles about Malcolm Glover: Sculpting time and Invoking generations of prayer.

 

Posted 17:04 Wednesday, Sep 4, 2019 In: Photography

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