Sunday, February 17, 2013

Kevin WY Lee | Carnival of Life

Photo © Kevin WY Lee-All Rights Reserved
In my previous post, I asked the somewhat rhetorical question as to what is real at the Kumbh Mela, and lamented the fact that such massive religious festivals attract charlatans, fake sadhus, self proclaimed mystics and religious con-men (and women) well as the devout pilgrims and the faithful. I also recognize the necessity for such large pilgrimages to generate money flows to the host cities (this one is in Allahabad), to its businesses and to itinerant vendors and the like.

After all, the Muslim Haj to Mecca was originally based on commercialism and trading...many other pilgrimage sites do the same.

That said, I have seen countless imagery from this year's Kumbh Mela...identical work showing the sadhus bathing, etc. but the one that I thought was singularly different was by Kevin Wy Lee.

In his Carnival of Life photo essay, I stopped at the above photograph of a traditional brass band at the Kumbh Mela. These street bands can be seen performing at weddings, politicians' elections, anywhere that calls for a celebration. Out of all the photographs I've seen, this one stands out as the best of them. 

Sure, it might be an eclectic choice because it doesn't tell us much about the Kumbh Mela, but to me it does. It's the back story to the Kumbh..and that's why I deem it to be a terrific photograph...Are they fathers and sons? Exhausted, tired feet, bloodshot eyes, they're cold, probably hungry... resigned that it's their karma to be street musicians. Have they made enough rupees to eat their evening meal? We don't know...but what we know is that they'll be walking in the muddy alleys of the Mela grounds for days to come...until the pilgrims go home.

Kevin WY Lee is a photographer and creative director based in Singapore working in film and photography. He has worked as a creative professional and photographer in Australia and Singapore for over 15 years. In 2010, he founded Invisible Photographer Asia (IPA), a platform which has grown to become a leading advocate platform for Photography & Visual Arts in Asia.

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