Jack is an award-winning photographer based in Peckham, London who has recently been shortlisted for the Professional Photographer Magazine’s ‘Professional Photographer of the Year’ award. He has exhibited internationally and currently has a solo exhibition entitled ‘An Inflection of India’ that is running at The Borough Barista in London. The series of photos were taken on his recent travels to India and focus on the diversity of people and their relationship with the natural and built environment, both of which are threatened by forces of globalization and rapid development.
Hi Jack. What are the biggest challenges you see the people of India facing in terms of modernisation of the country?
The aim of my work in this exhibition is to highlight the influences of modernisation on the cultural identity of India. I think the modernisation of a country or community is often synonymous with the loss of the traditional cultural values that come to define a place and its people. I don't believe that modernisation is generally a negative thing, but with improved communications, travel, and economy, traditional values and lifestyle often fall by the wayside. In India, the challenge, as with any developing nation, is to avoid homogenisation and maintain a sense of cultural identity in the face of globalisation.
What are some of the outside influences on culture you came across?
Tourism is of course a key feature in the discussion of external influences on culture. The injection of people from all over the world also implies the injection of ideas. I think the liberal nature of western society sits at odds with many of the traditional and religious values of India, and there is a romanticised view of the 'freedom' of those alternative cultures which I think draws especially the younger population of the nation away from the values of their parents. Indian culture is very family-centric which creates a fantastic sense of community which I feel is ever decreasing in more developed nations.
What did you find challenging on your trip there?
I think what is most challenging in visiting a place like India is how it makes you feel about yourself. The vast amount of the population lives below the poverty line, surviving on very little income, yet in my experience, it is often the poorest in such places who are the most gregarious and generous with their small possessions. One specific experience which highlighted this for me was in Pushkar, when I met a group of gypsies of the lowest caste, who invited me into their huts made of cardboard and rags of plastic, to share a meal, stories and chai with the entire village. It is somewhat belittling to be seated in the midst of such poverty with your expensive camera, bag and clothes, being offered all they have to give, with every offering of charity being refused as almost an insult. It certainly makes you re-evaluate what you consider necessary to your life when you experience people who can find happiness with so little.
The colour palette of your images is very different from what we usually see of photos depicting India.
Yes. I want to offer an alternative perspective to the typical artistic expectations of India that I think can present a somewhat rose-tinted view of the country. I felt a need, almost a responsibility, to capture the beauty of the ordinary and everyday, to document the simplicity of existence in a land so steeped in romance and mythology and cultural difference.
What 5 words would you use to describe the people of India?
Hospitable, Inquisitive, Gregarious, Amiable and Provocative.
And do you have another trip lined up?
I have a short expedition to the Wadi Rum desert in Jordan lined up later on this year in October, but I am hoping to get away before that to travel through some of France. My next job is to get my motorbike license so I can have a bit more freedom when I travel, and perhaps take longer overland trips in the future.