Where India Dries Its Clothes: Karan Khosla's Photo Series Is Draping India's Diversity

Where India Dries Its Clothes
Where India Dries Its ClothesKaran Khosla

Clothes, like the threads of our shared humanity, weave a tapestry that transcends borders and boundaries, revealing the universal nature of our need for self-expression and protection. In the vibrant landscape of India, this truth finds its most exquisite manifestation, where diversity unfurls in a riot of colors, textures, and styles. From the intricate silk sarees of Varanasi to the regal turbans of Rajasthan, from the elegant dhotis of South India to the ornate lehengas of the North, each garment tells a story of culture, tradition, and heritage. Yet, beneath the kaleidoscope of garments that grace this vast subcontinent lies a common thread of purpose — to adorn, to shield, and to communicate. Clothes beautifully unite us in our quest for identity and belonging while celebrating our rich differences and individualities.

In this modern day and age, most of us (the urban crowd), are accustomed to seeing clothes in shopping malls or in various online stores. While they are certainly fashionable, mostly from a Western aesthetic point of view, we forget that it does not represent what most of India actually wears. This is one of the primary things that crossed my mind when I first viewed Karan Khosla’s photo series titled Where India Dries Its Clothes. Karan captures a unique and remarkably simple thread that ties the nation together - the act of drying clothes. In the enchanting photo series, this unassuming daily ritual takes center stage, weaving an ethnological narrative that transcends geographical, social, and cultural divides.

Karan Khosla
Where India Dries Its Clothes
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The project's inception was organic, almost subliminal. The photographer had been traversing the vast expanse of India for over a decade, capturing moments that reflect the soul of the nation. Yet, it wasn't until five years ago, during a Nat Geo assignment in Nangal, that the idea began to crystallize. A friend observed the photographer documenting clothes hanging outside homes, and that was the eureka moment that ignited this remarkable visual journey.

Karan Khosla

The photographs in this series are a testament to the photographer's extensive travels, spanning the length and breadth of India. From the nomadic tribes of Gujarat to the remote villages in the Dzongu Valley (North Sikkim), from the lush forests of the West Garo Hills in Meghalaya to the busy streets of Mumbai's Covid vaccination camps, from the serene mountain villages of Himachal and Kashmir to the coastal haven of Kodi Bengre, and even the untamed wilds on the borders of Pench, this project truly encompasses India in all its diversity.

Karan Khosla

What emerges from this series is a profound sense of unity in diversity. Clothes drying on lines, whether outside a modest home, on a fancy balcony, or on a windswept beach, become a symbol of shared experience. Regardless of class, location, or circumstance, the act of drying clothes unites people in the simple, yet beautiful, routines of daily life. Beyond its visual aesthetic appeal, the Where India Dries its Clothes series carries a deeper purpose. It challenges the conventional global gaze that has often exoticized or misrepresented India in photography and storytelling. Instead, the photographer strives to celebrate the ordinary and portray everyday lives authentically.

Karan Khosla

A poignant anecdote from Karan’s interview with Hammock Magazine underscores the importance of respectful photography. In the village of Bir, during the pandemic, the photographer's genuine request to capture a moment with a local woman and her child highlighted the significance of seeking permission, engaging in meaningful interactions, and leaving subjects with smiles rather than intrusions.

Karan Khosla
Where India Dries Its Clothes
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The beauty of this project lies in its lack of a master plan. It began as a simple observation, a recognition of a common thread woven through the diverse tapestry of our nation. The photographer's dedication to authenticity has allowed the project to evolve organically, capturing the essence of life as it unfolds. Even though the photographer has amassed a collection of images over the years, so far, he has only put out twenty photographs from the series. Karan intends to continue developing this project. There's talk of transforming it into a book or exploring other avenues for sharing these profound insights into India's everyday beauty.

About the photographer:

Karan Khosla is a photographer who was born and brought up across India. He has worked as a photographer, director and cinematographer for more than a decade while also developing his own projects. He has worked with brands including Meta, Google, Unicef India, Architectural Digest, The Guardian, Vice, Amazon Prime and many others. Currently he is based out of Mumbai and Goa.

Follow him here.

This story first appeared on Hammock Magazine. Click here to read it or to view the complete photo series.

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