Rajasthan, India’s sumptuous architecture is reimagined with the discerning eye of photographer Karen Knorr. In 2008, she began a project focusing on the upper echelons of Mughal and Rajput culture amidst the palaces, forts and temples of the region. In this hauntingly beautiful series, “India Song”, Knorr digitally inserts live animals into some of Rajasthan’s most intricate and decadent rooms. By doing so, she celebrates its beautiful architecture. (See more of Rajasthan’s architecture captured here and here in fashionable style.)
But when one looks more deeply at the photos, filled with opulent sites where animals hold court, she asks probing questions. Seeing animals rather than people in these stately quarters can be jarring, and at times humorous; but it definitely blurs the boundaries between real and fake, nature and culture, animals and humans and perhaps intruders (British) and natives (Indians).
The Panchatantra, an ancient Indian collection of interconnected animal fables, has been suggested as a metaphor for the numerous animals weaving meaningful stories throughout these photographs. Cranes, peacocks, zebus, langurs, tigers and elephants change before your very eyes into regal characters perfectly at home in their respective palaces and temples.
While the architecture is recorded with an analog camera, the animals are photographed separately at reserves, parks and zoos using digital imaging. This combines a very slow process with an incredibly fast one, which makes for a strange juxtaposition of the animal against its environment.
Knorr is both photographer and tourist while looking through the lens at these vast structures. Without anything remotely comparable in the West, they astonish her. She hopes that when people look at these photos, they are amazed by the grandeur of the architecture. While there are layers of meaning to the photographs, at the end of the day, viewers will still be in awe of how beautiful these places are.
Karen Knorr was nominated for the esteemed Deutsche Börse Photography Prize for her work on this series. See more and read about her at http://karenknorr.com.
All images courtesy of Karen Knorr and India Song published by Skira. Purchase the book here.