A Myth of Two Souls is inspired by the epic tale The Ramayana. Drawing inspiration from the imagery associated with this myth and its pervasiveness in everyday Indian life, Vasantha Yogananthan is retracing the legendary route from north to south India. First recorded by the Sanskrit poet Valmiki around 300 BC, The Ramayana has been continuously rewritten and reinterpreted, and continues to evolve today. Yogananthan’s series is informed by the notion of a journey in time and offers a modern retelling of the tale.
A Myth of Two Souls juxtaposes several sets of photographs: landscapes, hand-painted staged portraits and illustrated black and white photographs.
The landscapes are mythical to Indians today as they were described in the original version of The Ramayana. In the portraits, inhabitants of these landscapes stage scenes that have left a mark on their imagination. Shot in black and white using a large-format camera, these theatrical portraits have subsequently been coloured by an Indian artist using the ancient technique of hand-painting.
This technique was traditionally reserved for household portraits of wealthy patrons and has been subverted in Yogananthan’s photographs. He has applied this ancient art to depict the whole of society by using passersby as actors, regardless of caste, and by photographing outside of the studio he has expanded it into new territories – from modern metropolises to remote countryside.
In the illustrated photographs Yogananthan has been working with two artists specialising in the tradition of Madhubani painting. This is one of the oldest art forms in the Mithila region of Bihar, and is characterised by eye-catching geometric patterns.
Through classic colour, hand-painted and illustrated photography, A Myth of Two Souls interweaves fictional and historical stories with a narration that takes viewers on an epic journey. A Myth of Two Souls will be published in seven photobooks between 2016-2020, one per chapter of the tale.
Foam Talent (NL, 2017)
ICP Infinity Award Emerging Photographer of the Year (US, 2017)
Prix Levallois (FR, 2016)
IdeasTap/Magnum Photos International Award (UK, 2015)
Prix Roger Pic (FR, 2015)
Prix Scam Brouillon d’un rêve (FR, 2014)
Centre National des Arts Plastiques (FR, 2013)
Les Artisans du Regard (France)
Photographs: Vasantha Yogananthan
Vasantha Yogananthan and Jaykumar Shankar
Vasantha Yogananthan and Mahalaxmi & Shantanu Das
Text: Anjali Raghbeer, Arshia Sattar
Illustrations: Mahalaxmi & Shantanu Das
Kummer & Herrman
Design and development