What comes to your mind when you think of a photographer travelling across Rajasthan on a journey to capture the life and beauty of the state? Never-ending sand dunes, a fiery sun setting over the mighty desert, innumerable forts and castles overlooking cities? That’s the general notion associated with the desert state of India, but photographer Ozzie Hoppe goes way beyond that.
He has travelled through the Thar Desert to villages and towns, documenting the lives of people through his camera and – I dare say – has done away with the fallacious image of Rajasthan being a hot, dry, and dreary state filled with remnants of historic rulers and emperors and where the only blue you see on land is the occasional oasis. Instead, he focused on the everyday life of the residents of rural areas and their surroundings and depicted beautifully the culture, traditions and customs that are deeply engraved into the lives of the people of this mighty state.
Hoppe’s love for his profession developed throughout his adolescence. Having grown up in the States, he spent a lot of time hitchhiking with his brother and after getting his first camera in high school, he discovered his passion for seeing everything through the lens. Those two passions amalgamated, making him a genius photographer with the capability of producing stellar photographs depicting sweeping landscapes, beautiful people and striking colours.
His brother inspired him to choose this life and he says he loves doing what he does. One look at the photos he has clicked of Rajasthan and it is evident that he, indeed, does enjoy looking at the world through his camera. The photographs are unbelievably surreal–each and every detail is evident in the images, and at the same time, the overall image is equally striking. He captures the emotions of people in that moment, the unending beauty of the landscapes that surround them and the magnificence of their simple lives.
His trip to Rajasthan was, in his opinion, one of his most memorable. He says,
Anytime I encounter rural communities, it always blows my mind to see how far the world has gone in the other direction while there is a population out there that lives purely off the land.
The intensity of Hoppe’s photographs is breathtaking. The contrast between the images as well as the land in which they are shot and its development, is astounding. The juxtaposition of people comfortably using mobile phones while facing an electricity shortage in their villages, domesticating camels for travelling to and working in urban cities with cars and bikes, is almost startling. He has perfectly captured these idiosyncrasies and so much more.
What I find most impressive about his work is that he shows everyday life in a beautiful manner that not just leaves you awestruck, but rouses your curiosity about the place and its culture. His pictures of their forms of dance, their traditional clothes, their ways of life intrigue you.
After having browsed through this series on his website, I found myself with a desire to learn more about the people in these areas and their folklore, traditions, rituals and lives. Hoppe’s focus on the simple aspects of a photograph that are mostly forgotten such as the colourful turbans or even the dust particles in the path of the sun rays creates an image that stays with you in your mind.
To say Ozzie Hoppe clicked the desert state on his trip beautifully is a gross understatement. His images of a vivid, vibrant state and its song, dance, culture and food are nothing less than astonishing, especially after being reminded that he is non-native, not just to the state, but to the country. He can turn the most common pictures into extraordinary images, each a masterpiece in its own right. As I look through the photographs, only one thought repeats itself in my mind: these are not pictures, but entire stories in themselves.