Q&A | Finding Calm in Rajasthan</br>- Simon Bray

Q&AFinding Calm in Rajasthan
- Simon Bray

'The Limited Findings of a Westerner's Short Stay in Rajasthan' titles the latest creative project from photographer, Simon Bray. Both the book's title and Simon's emotive collection of images elude to the intense sensory experience that he experienced on his trip. We wanted to scratch beneath the surface to uncover the stories and moments that inspired the book. 

Words & Photography: Simon Bray | @simonbray

Why Rajahstan? Had you heard stories from other travellers, or was it somewhere you had always wanted to visit?

I'd set aside some time to travel at the end of last year, and my criteria was that it should be somewhere like nowhere else I'd ever been, somewhere that would stretch me and invite me into a different way of living, somewhere I probably wouldn't go once I had more responsibilities in life! I had friends who had either travelled or were living in India, all of whom had had life changing experiences, I talked with them, and they gave me lots of helpful advice of where to visit and travelling across Rajasthan seemed to fit our time scale and budget, so we just went for it. Although, seemingly, no amount of advice can prepare you for a trip to Rajasthan!

Were there any challenges that you faced that were unique to shooting in India?

Everywhere we went just felt like a sensory overload, the landscape, the variety of pleasant and less pleasant smells, the physical engagement with the locals through touch, eye contact, requests for money or being shepherded into shops to buy things, new and different foods and the relentless car horns, and hubbub of the cities all made for an overwhelming experience. I kept needing to find some space and solace in public parks! I think because of the relentlessness of the experience, I began searching for very quiet images. I was surprised when I came home at how many of the images feel gentle, serene and peaceful, I was obviously using my camera to find that solace in amongst the hectic day-to-day. So I don't think I captured a very 'typical' view of Rajasthan, although when it came to putting together the book, it was mostly the vast array of colours and tones of the images which dictated the edit!

What is your fondest memory of the trip?

About 5 days in, after being totally overwhelmed, we (I was travelling with my wife, Sarah), decided to book a night's stay on a farmstead just outside of Udaipur. It was a beautifully quiet self-sufficient farm at the foot of the hills, we had time to explore the local villages, go swimming, eat meals prepared from the fields right in front of us and spend mealtimes talking with other visitors, sharing stories and tales from our travels, it was idyllic! I wish we could have stayed there for longer, I really didn't want to leave.

Was there any moment that you simply couldn’t capture on film, a moment where you just had to sit back and enjoy?

Moments like finding a snake in your bedroom or being coerced into buying a handmade suit (we were locked in a room until we bought something, the suit looks great though!), will always stick with me, regardless of the fact I was too pre-occupied to take a photograph! 

I actually had my camera with me at all times, and as a tourist, as an observer, there weren't many moments that I didn't feel able to take a photograph. My memories of the journey are already heavily dictated by the photographs that I took, but I barely have any shots from the first couple of days we spent in Delhi, it was too overwhelming, I just had to soak it all up and not think about making images!

What does travel mean to you?

Travel, for me, is an appreciation that there are other ways to engage with life, that other cultures have different heritages, histories and ideas that it's healthy for us to engage with and learn from. Most of my work is about place, the physical landscape and our connection to it, so I'm always intrigued to visit somewhere new, to engage with it visually for the first time, but also observe how both locals and visitors engage with that place.

You can purchase a copy of Simon's Book 'The Limited Findings of a Westerner's Short Stay in Rajasthan' here >