In winter 2006 I came in contact with Helena Schaetzle from Germany. She was looking for a partner for her indian-german exhibition and book idea. In summer 2006 she came to India for the first time – to a country that overwhelmed her in its diversity, colourfulness and chaos. She was faced with questions and with every step she took and each answer she got, more questions were brought up.

Her impression of sounds, odours and crowds melted into a giant blur of images, which she was trying to sort out while being here for the second time.

We spoke about those impressions while Helena tried to put them into order and came to the conclusion that it is impossible to really understand a country being a foreigner or to show its core. This I believe is because each traveller experiences a country differently so what is being shown afterwards is a very subjective perception. And for me being from India my first visit to Germany has been as exotic as India must have been for Helena.

Project- Idea

From this arose the idea of a book – and an exhibition project with two parts:
One part showing India from Helena’s point of view as a German, the other one showing Germany from my point of view as an Indian.

Two worlds shown from two different angles. What represents our culture inside of us? What is the impression a foreigner gets when being here? To what point are stereotypes confirmed? How deep can one sink into the other one’s culture?

Step by step

To collect more impressions and pictures for the exhibition and the book, we started travelling together for 8 more months through India. From April on we were working our way through 14 states, whilst realizing projects with different NGO’s. Through this work Helena was able to get a deeper insight as a non-tourist.

Then in december I came to Germany to collect my first pictures for the Indian part of the book – Germany seen through the eyes of an Indian. In one month time I took photographs in order to record the particularities and characteristics of Germany and its inhabitants, a country being so different to India. In April I came back again to intensify the work I had done before.

Why this project

For centuries there has been a connection between India and Germany which continues up to the present. Since the Arians settled in India the roots have been the same in language as well as in customs. Some areas in India give even the impression to have haltered in time and represent a Germany as it must have been 50 years ago.

Now with the globalisation political and economical connections have become more and more important as Germany being India’s most important trade partner in Europe is showing. But also the interest in the other culture is rising steadily. Westerners have been and are travelling to India in search of new experiences that are provided by this multiple culture, to find adventures or spiritual fulfillment. Most Indians come to Germany for economical reasons but also to get to know the culture.

Since there is a growing interest on both sides concering the other country, the target audience for our project can be found among Indians and Germans likewise.

The aim of the project is to help getting a deeper understanding and appreciation of the other culture but also to see our own country through some distant eye. Many things which are a matter of course in our own culture, are a surprise and amazement for someone coming from outside.

About the exhibition

The exhibition was placed in May in Stuttgart as a part of the 40th anniversary of the twinning cities Mumbai and Suttgart.

The pictures were placed on the walls, changing between India and Germany, so a fascinating, narrative exchange could be seen. By placing the pictures next to each other, contrasts as well as interferences were pointed out, which helped to intensify the visual experience.

I presented my pictures classically with white mount behind glass. Through this presentation I tried show the discipline, I found in Germany. The reflecting glass represented the effort I had to take to get a look behind the curtain into the normal German life. India on the other hand shows its dazzeling beauty, variety, uniqueness and chaos at the first glimps. Therefore Helena presented her pictures mounted without any protection on AluDipond in different sizes.

About the book

Together with graphic designer Isabelle Winter we are working on a high end photography book.

What happens by comparing the images. Is it possible to show the specification of each country? India in its colourful beauty, harmonizing contrariness and mass of information next to the German pictures, reduced in its colour with clear sturctures and organized pictures.

Within this book the compostion of the single pictures is the most important part and will help to intensify the photographer’s impression of the country. The viewer is forced to draw attention to rituals or habits within their own culture, which are usually too built into the society to catch one’s eye.

The unphotographed part like odour, sound and smell as can be seen in the introduction will be in text form in the book. Through the text the viewer will be brought even deeper into the respective country. Therefor the German journalist Karen Schreitmüller and the Indian journalist Gunvanthi Balaram are going to write about the “foreign” country they are both familiar with. The text will be printed in German, Hindi and English .