Capturing the plight of rivers

Capturing the plight of rivers
Capturing the plight of rivers

Rivers are the lifeline of human civilisation. It is on the banks of great rivers that civilisations were born and flourished. No wonder in India,...

Rivers are the lifeline of human civilisation. It is on the banks of great rivers that civilisations were born and flourished. No wonder in India, many worship rivers and consider it a pilgrimage to visit a river and take a holy dip. Unfortunately, our reverence ends with prayer as we systematically dump our rivers with plastic, industrial waste, build dams and make them so impure that it is an irony – the same rivers that gave us life and now in need of protection.

Vizag-based Apuroopa Reddy, an architect student, who chose to make photography her career, took a series of pictures as a part of her 'River Project' to highlight the plight of Indian rivers.It all began with a visit to Ujjain with family. Apuroopa explains, "My family wanted to take a holy dip in the Narmada flowing through Ujjain.

I had my camera with me, so I stay put on the banks and walked around observing and clicking pictures. On one side, like in every holy place, people were praying, taking a dip, drinking water and on the other side, there was this waste and filth being dumped into the river. On one side we pray and on the other side, we degrade the river.

What if rivers had a voice, what would they be thinking - I thought I should do a photo series on threatened rivers, and I began doing research."While doing research Apuroopa found many interesting facets of rivers, stories and mention in epics, etc. And based on the information and the current state of the river, with the help of friends who modelled for her, did make-up and wrote commentary for her photos – she began 'The Rivers Project'.

Rivers don't have much written about them. There aren't any popular pictures even though there are a few statues. That gave me a chance to imagine, and characterise them."Ganga in Apuroopa's pictures wears a saree that is going grey from cream unlike the popular version, which is white. "Ganga is not white anymore.

It is polluted, hence the grey saree. The man bun and the earrings of the crescent moon is all about the Shiva connection. Ganga's vahana is fish, and in my picture, Ganga holds a dead fish. Even her vahana is unable to survive is what I wanted to portray," she shares.

"The Yamuna is said to be Sun god's daughter and that's how I got her into yellow. Her vahana is a turtle. She is also Yamadharmaraju's sister, apparently. I learnt all this while researching; that's why dark skin. You go to Taj Mahal; the wonder of the world and you see on the other side this dumping yard and we immediately turn our face away. Where an emperor built such a beautiful structure for his dead queen and see what we do to a river that gives us life. I tried to show the irony in my pictures."

Interestingly, Apuroopa clicked all her pictures in Visakhapatnam recreating the background she wanted. It's only for the Godavari, she went to Rajamahendravaram (Rajahmundry) to take her pictures.

Apuroopa secured 29th rank in the entrance exam for Architecture and she wanted to study in Hyderabad; however, her father promised to buy her a DSLR camera and a bike if she chooses to study in Visakhapatnam, which she promptly agreed. Until then she was shooting sunsets and other pictures, using her small digital camera. Equipped with a good camera and a great love for photography, nothing could stop her.

Even as she continued to study Architecture in Andhra University, she continued to indulge in her hobby, became a member in a local photography club and learnt the techniques with the help of others in the group. By the end of her studies, she started getting assignments of product shoots and even weddings. By then she realised drawing plans for buildings is not her cup of tea, and she went ahead into full-time photography. Today, she is busy doing portfolios for brands, stores and products and her wedding photography unit – Pretty Pixels is thriving.

"Initially, I was worried because this is supposedly considered as men's field, but my counterparts and teams that I work with are cooperative and respect my work and that makes it easy for me to go about doing my work. As an architecture student, the way I perceive spaces is what I put into my pictures. Personally, when I need to express something is when I do such projects. There is a lot of viewership for art projects, but I am not sure there is a market for it. However, if we are able to deliver a message that is more than enough," she adds.

'The Rivers Project', which she initially displayed on social media site Instagram is being talked about in several publications across India, which is when she decided to put it on Facebook and also conduct an exhibition.

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