Traversing the blistering contemporary landscape of Gujarat, “Salt / Land & People” project retraces the seminal Salt March by Gandhi that laid the path for Independence.
The end of British rule in the Indian sub-continent on 15th of August 1947 is well documented. Within this history, Mahatma Gandhi is a central figure, challenging the might of the British Empire to free India through civil disobedience that was non-violent.
Regarded as the “Father of the Nation”, Ghandiji was greatly dismayed at the cost of this political independence. His vision of India – a country where equality and truth would rule over capitalist-centered notions – was nowhere to be seen. Religion, castes, tribes, and politics had split India and its people. Over the ensuing decades electoral democracy has not alleviated the entrenched notions of hierarchy and inequality and the economic growth of the recent years has widened this gulf.
Starting on 12th of March 1930, Gandhi walked a distance of 241 miles over 24 days from the Sabarmati Ashram in Ahmedabad to the beach hamlet of Dandi in Southern Gujarat. On 6th of April, scooping up a handful of sea sand and water he created the “Salt Satyagraha”, breaking the law that required Indians to pay tax on their own salt. The subsequent ripples throughout the population eventually swelled into independence 17 years later.
My first excursion along the Salt March route was with a Polaroid camera and a notebook. I wanted the experience to be loose and visceral. The images and notes I made on this trip became my guide for the future trips.
Following Gandhi’s footsteps has not been an easy task. With my trustee 4×5 camera, I was seeking out the modern elements and inheritors of his philosophy. Lone trees and Gandhi’s writings became my companion as I looked for shelter, waiting out the white glare of the afternoon sun, reaching temperatures of up to 50 °C (122 °F) before setting up my camera to make the images. I worked mostly during the early morning or early evening. These were special moments for Gandhi. They were a time for prayer, meditation and writing of his thoughts and ideas for the future of India and its people. For me, they allowed for a special quality of light and an end and beginning to waiting, waiting, waiting.
Reading his letters and speeches written during the Salt March, my goal was to distill his ideas and voice into the images I wanted to make. The long time it took to prepare each shot made me realise that it was in trying and failing and with patience and servitude that I would begin to witness life as it happened along the Salt March route today.