Four billion years ago, when life first emerged on this planet, there were no land masses. The Earth was just one gigantic body of water. So, the first life form originated from water. Over the years, the world has changed, the evolution of life forms, the landscape, extinction of existing species, and birth of new but humans have always had a close relationship with the sea. When I look at the sea, it symbolizes freedom horizontally and when I look at the mountains it represents freedom vertically.
The sea has been the subject of many great works of art, be it literature, paintings, or photographs. Today we shall look at one such Indian photographer, whose muse is the sea. His name is Nelson Viji and is based out of Pondicherry, a beautiful coastal city along the Bay of Bengal with wonderful French architecture. When I visited Puducherry, I found the sea to be inimitably blue and exquisitely tranquil. Two of his series, Life Revolves Around Sea Water and The Sea Within capture the intimate relationship and co-existence of the people of Pondicherry with the sea. From traveling on fishermen's boats to capture them in their environment to photographing the kids who make their livelihood by selling balloons on the Puducherry beach, Viji’s photographs portray a sensitive and vibrant relationship between humans and the sea.
In a candid interview with Homegrown, we got to know this talented photographer better:
Tell us about your project The Sea Within.
Sea within is a collection of photographs taken between 2017-22. Sorting them still depends on moods, for now, and I'm still in the writing process. It started around 2017-18 when I was going through complete emotional numbness and fatigue. I started this practice of going for walks along the shore after my evening tea, observing people and life around the sea. As the light began to wane, the flow of people, their body language, and interactions with the sea also began to change. This fascinated me and also gave me some comfort. That’s how the project began and I believe someday, I make it into a book.
What are some of the things you learned while putting this project together?
I learned to play with my images freely in the last few years. By working with long-term stories, I could see how ideas can evolve from nothing to something meaningful when you give it proper time.
Describe your creative process and the purpose with which you create.
From childhood, words had suffocated me when I choose to write or express myself. I feel I'm more of a visual learner, mostly an observer than a photographer. I am always curious about people and things around me. I like to keep my mind empty when I shoot. Always, one moment leads me to many and I like to use a series of images to convey mood or mixed emotions. As a photographer, I feel it's important to document where one lives and what one cares for.
Who or what have been some of your biggest inspirations over the years of your artistic career?
There are so many people who inspired me to evolve as a photographer but I would say Pondy photo festival and Yannick Cormier.
Is there any particular project you wish you were a part of?
Nothing like that, but I am currently working on something that I hope I could bring to the surface someday.
You can find out more out about Nelson Viji here.