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Deutsches Technikmuseum - Faces of India

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Photo: Portrait of an old woman with a serious expression, verging on the sullen. The red dot on her wrinkled forehead, just above the bridge of her nose, means that she is married and not yet widowed. Her head is covered with a Paisley scarf

Sceptical gaze

Photo: Three smiling boys aged about thirteen are standing in the open doorway of a simple mountain hut. The one in the middle has his arms around the other two. Their heads are shaven and they are wearing simple dark red robes and yellow undershirts

Most Indian Buddhists live in the high valleys of the Himalayas, but there are also communities in the north-east and in South India

Photo: Portrait of an old man dressed in the spiritual colours of red and yellow with long grey hair and a white beard. His forehead is painted yellow with large red dots. He has an earnest expression, possibly lost in meditation

Travelling monks (Sadhus) search for spiritual perfection

Faces of India

Special exhibition in the gallery of the department "History of Photo Technology"

3 November 2009 to 28 February 2010

Photo: An old man lying asleep in his rickshaw. His grey hair, arms and clothing are speckled with violet dye. Holi is also known as the Festival of Colours

Resting after the hard work of the Festival of Holi

People

The eighty or so colour portraits featured in this exhibition reflect the ethnic diversity of India.

In the 1980s, amateur photographer Helmut Schilke developed a passion for travel on the Indian subcontinent. Fascinated by friendly people in colourful garb and the Hindu customs of everyday life along the sacred River Ganges, he was drawn back again and again.

From the four sources high in the Himalayas down to Varanasi, where bathing in the Ganges promises redemption from the eternal cycle of life, Schilke visited many holy places, getting to know some of the people who live there and capturing the special features of their lives on film.

Hindu wandering monks – sadhus – often posed for his camera. These celibate ascetics abandon their conventional lives and attachments to seek spiritual liberation through meditation, worship and reading the holy texts. The tilak, a brightly coloured mark on the forehead, indicates membership of a particular Hindu order.The Naga Sadhus of the Dashanami order appear especially exotic to the European eye. They rub themselves with holy ashes and often wear only a loincloth – or nothing at all. In earlier times they fought against Muslim invaders, and during the colonial era against the British.

Photo: Father, mother and their young daughter sitting in front of a stack of Coca-Cola crates in a mini-market. The man is wearing white, with a red and brown turban, while the woman and girl are dressed in colourful saris. The girl is drinking a glass of

Musician´s family from Rajasthan at a soft drink stall in Rajasthan

Places

India is a country with an almost infinite variety of peoples, languages and regional differences. A republic made up of 28 federal states, its 1.1 billion inhabitants make it the world’s most populous democratic state. It is a nation marked by enormous economic and social disparities: a rising economic power, but also a place of widespread poverty, great overpopulation, terrible pollution and myriad ethnic and religious conflicts.
Daily life is heavily coloured by Hinduism, to which 80 percent of the population adheres.

The Photographer

Helmut Schilke was born in 1953 in Emsdetten, Germany. After completing commercial training he worked for many years for a tram manufacturer in Düsseldorf. He moved to Berlin in 2002. On his long trips to India he taught English in McLeod Ganj, the seat of the Dalai Lama, and found inspiration in Buddhism. He has been a practising Buddhist for several years.