According to tourist brochures and tourism websites, Kerala is named as one of the ‘Ten Paradises of the World’ and ‘50 Places of a Lifetime’ by the National Geographic Traveler Magazine, and its " alluring serenity leaves every tourist spell bound, making them come back year after year." Having been to Kerala four times, I confirm the hyperbole by which Kerala is described...however The Oracles of Kerala Photo Expedition/Workshop™ is not about Kerala's serenity, but about two of its most unusual religious and ancient festivals, as well as its ancient dance-drama and Vedic chanting tradition.
Thirunakkara Arattu Utsavam is a 10 day temple festival celebrated in Kottayam. The pageantry involves nine decorated elephants accompanied by dancers and drummers, the bathing of Mahadeva’s idol and the performances of Mayilattom (the peacock dance) and other performances of Velakali and Kathakali, the traditional dance forms of Kerala.
Kodungallur Bharani The Bharani festival attracts the largest congregation of Velichapadus (oracles). The oracles' bodies are smeared with turmeric powder, in yellow or red tunics, wearing huge waist belts studded with bells, and carrying sacred swords, they enter trances and offer blood to the deity.
| OUTLINE OF EXPEDITION/MULTIMEDIA WORKSHOP
MULTI-PRONGED: As befits the context of this photo expedition/multimedia workshop, our objectives will be multi-pronged; the primary aim will be to photograph the pageantry and rituals at the Thirunakkara Arattu Utsavam at its start and end, and the seldom documented rituals at the Kodungallur Bharani festival where the oracles offer obeisance to their deity.
We will also devote time to photograph in the streets of Kochi, especially the spice warehouses and stores of Mattancherry, which offer a glimpse of what life was at the time when Arab traders were the dominant economic force in the ancient city.
Another visually compelling photo shoot will be scheduled at one of the Kathakali training academies in Trichur, where we will photograph the actors as they prepare for their performance. In 2009, we visited a Vedic school where dozens of young boys are taught the ancient oral tradition of reciting the Vedas. This will be repeated on this expedition, and promises to an incredible experience, in a chiaroscuro environment that will push your artistic boundaries, especially when coupled with audio recordings of the chants.
OBJECTIVES: Emulating real-life photo assignments, the aim of the workshop is to assist its participants produce multimedia bodies of work ready for publishing. Participants will merge their still photography and audio to create compelling narratives. This is largely for color photography, but black & white for the Vedic school project might be an option. Participating photographers will have to own/use portable audio recorders, and specialized audio-slideshow software.
WHO FOR: The Oracles of Kerala Photo Expedition/Workshop™is structured for photographers interested in documentary photography, ethno-photography and multimedia, and for those ready to create visual projects from their inventory of photographs, and learn how to control story length, intent, pace, use of music and ambient sound, narration, field recordings and interviews.
PHOTO GALLERIES: Here are some of my galleries and images from the 2009 photo expedition:
::TRADERS OF KOCHI::
HOTELS: The accommodations for The Oracles of Kerala Photo Expedition/Workshop™ will be resort and boutique hotels, such as The Dream Hotel (Kochi), Abad Whispering Palms (Kumarakom), Cheruthurthy Eco Gardens (Thrichur) and the Vedic Village Resort (Kodungallur)
The Travel Photographer's Photo~Expeditions™ are best described as a mixture of documentary photojournalism, ethno-photography and travel photography" adventures. As with other previous expeditions, The Oracles of Kerala Photo Expedition/Workshop™ will include both documentary-style (candid and on-the-run) photography, as well as posed photo sessions with selected people we may encounter.
Tewfic El-Sawy is The Travel Photographer, a freelance photographer who specializes in documenting endangered cultures and traditional life ways of Asia, Latin America and Africa. He's enthusiastic about documentary-travel photography and produces multimedia stories, merging still photography and ambient sound.
His favorite destination is India, which he visited no less than 18 times. He recently published DARSHAN, a book of his photographs of India. He's also a faculty member of the Foundry Photojournalism Workshop, tutoring the essentials of multimedia to emerging photojournalists.
Important Notice: The Oracles of Kerala Photo Expedition/Workshop™
is limited to 7 participating photographers only. It is not for first timers to India, nor for starting photographers, nor for spouses who are not photographers. Participation is subject to a portfolio review.