The Art of Heritage Photography

Start Date:21-Sep-2021

End Date:21-Sep-2021



Link for the full conversation is here.

“Photography is an art when the photographer is an artist.”
— (The Mother, CWM, Vol. 12, p. 241)

How do you make youngsters interested in learning about the great rich cultural and artistic heritage of India? The first and obvious answer would be to have them visit those places which are outstanding examples of the long and marvellous architectural and sculptural history of India. But if a direct experience is not possible, the next best alternative is a virtual experience through fantastic photographs of these places which can make them curious to discover more, to learn more. Social media is a great influence in today’s age; and when social media is used to highlight the rich artistic heritage of our culture it can become an important means for learning and broadening the minds of learners – young and young at heart alike.

For the September 2021 edition of Insightful Conversations, AuroBharati invited Mr. Madhu Jagdhish, who has been doing exactly this work for many years, for a conversation on the topic – “The Art of Heritage Photography.” Mr. Jagdhish is a heritage photography enthusiast, with special interest in temple sculptures. He is also deeply interested in nature photography. He has travelled far and wide across the country as well as abroad pursuing his passion and documenting the magnificent beauty and richness of cultural and natural heritage of humanity.

Dr. Beloo Mehra, Senior Academic Mentor and Editor of AuroBharati’s e-journal Renaissance, Ms. Isha Bidwaikar, former research and editorial assistant for Renaissance, and Ms. Shruti Ramteke, co-ordinator of AuroMedia, Sri Aurobindo Society, participated in the online session.

The great diversity, rich beauty and sheer genius of Indian temple architecture and sculpture have completely captured Mr. Jagdhish’s photographic passion. Through his thousands of photographs taken over the past several decades, he has been superbly documenting the unique elegance and fantastic details and artistry of Indian sculptural tradition spread across various parts of the country. His work has been published in various magazines and he has been interviewed for several Tamil TV shows for his significant work on documenting Indian temple heritage. In addition to conducting several exhibitions, he regularly showcases his work on Facebook at his page @madhujagdishsculptureenthusiast

Mr. Jagdhish briefly shared his journey as a photographer, and particularly what made him an enthusiast for documenting Indian sculptural and architectural heritage. While he has travelled extensively to various heritage sites throughout India, he mentioned a few special places where he would wish to go many more times such as, Kailashanatha cave temple at Ellora, and Rani ki Vav at Patan. These sites represent some of the glorious examples of the stupendous aesthetic and engineering genius of our ancestors.

He also spoke passionately about some of the sculptural marvels he has captured over the years especially a few specific temples in and around Coimbatore area, his native place. That is where he first started practicing sculpture photography during various times of the day to experiment with varying light and perspective.  

As is well known, temples in India have traditionally not only served religious and spiritual purposes but also serves as great centres for art and culture. Mr. Jagdhish said that in his observation there is now a growing appreciation and interest in understanding the rich cultural aspect of our temple heritage.

Over the years, he has conducted several exhibitions at local schools and colleges, and he has generally found students interested in learning more about the pictures he displays. He said that instead of the religious pull of the temples, these youngsters are drawn in by the amazing artistic and aesthetic appeal of the temple architecture and sculpture. He has witnessed youngsters being in awe of the genius of their ancestors when they are shown some specific examples and given careful explanation. This, he believes, can be a great way for Indian youth to gain a good appreciation of the spirit of Indian culture.

Ms. Shruti Ramteke, who is herself a photography enthusiast, brought up some specific questions about particular aspects or considerations which must be kept in mind when photographing a sculpture, especially one which has quite intricate work. She also asked if there are some distinct differences between Heritage photography and other forms of photography.

“On the physical plane it is in beauty that the Divine expresses Himself.”
— (The Mother, CWM, Vol. 12, p. 232)

A thoughtful exposure to our culture’s artistic heritage and an overall development of aesthetic sensibility and artistic appreciation are important parts of any meaningful education.  In our times of smartphones and with photography becoming available at fingertips, it has become more important that those youngsters interested in exploring photography as an art-form and a possible vocation are shown this possibility that photography can also become a great medium to go deeper into one’s cultural roots and in the process discover and reveal (for oneself and for others) the rich artistic and aesthetic traditions that we have inherited. In this regard, Mr. Jagdhish’s work makes a significant contribution.