The Backstories

 

Empty Land

 

Central Otago and the Mackenzie country in New Zealand South Island offer landscapes of austere beauty and a difficult living for those whose lot it is to farm there. The early white settlers in the Central Otago region were mainly prospecting for gold, and for a while this provided much of its wealth. The gold boom soon faded and sheep farming took over. But harsh winters and desiccating summers provide sparse grazing and a hazardous living, made more difficult by the huge areas the farms range over. Modern farming practices are now changing large parts of this tawny landscape into the unnatural vivid green of artificially irrigated pastures, as farmers turn away from traditional sheep farming to more viable dairying.

 

I owe Otago artist Grahame Sydney a huge debt for inspiring me to photograph these awesome  landscapes. Perceptions are forever changing, and while we can now enjoy the beauty of these lands, I doubt the early gold prospectors or sheep ranchers saw them the same way.

India - On the Road

 

Nothing prepares you for India. Described by economist J K Galbraith as a “functioning anarchy” it presents the visitor with a sensory overload of colour, noise, confusion and chaos. You are left wondering “how on earth does it work?” as the Western familiarities of order and conformity are replaced by a tidal wave of human activity and interaction. Our assumed ideas of what constitutes a town, village, road or farm are off the mark in India, where the built environment gives the impression of a hastily erected and incomplete building site, always on the edge of viability.

 

But beneath the surface confusion is an order of great antiquity, complex and obscure in its traditions and protocols but which copes with the challenges of survival where the State has minimal influence on the everyday lives of people and where reliance on self and family is paramount.

 

My pictures of life on and by the road in Northern India were all taken on long road trips in 2010 between Delhi and Shimla, and between Agra and Delhi, and to me these formed a stronger lasting impression of and affection for India, than the many splendours of the tourist centres. I have attempted to show life as it is for ordinary people, in a country where strong traditions co-exist amidst a burgeoning modernity. People with pride and purpose, who, like the chaotic traffic all around, seek only to push forward into whatever space is available.

 

    “Yet the country still ran, in all its clunky fashion, all its mends and patches showing, and what looked like chaos in India was actually a kind of order, like furious atoms spinning.”  Paul Theroux Ghost Train to the Eastern Star.

All images and other content Copyright Barrie MacJannette