Sometimes social media is truly social. You can build community even if your community is half a world away. Common interests create a global village. This is how I came to know the art that makes up Art Installation No. 32 – The Photos of Narasimha Reddy Yeddula.
Narasimha is a photographer from a small village in the state of Andhra Pradesh in South India. He happened upon my Faces Places and Plates project about South India and we struck up a digital conversation. Our commonalities are food, soil and people and of course, a love of India. I express my love for these things through writing and cooking. He, through his artful photography. But there’s more to the story.
A million villages
When westerners think of India, many imagine over-crowded mega-cities. And, indeed, Mumbai, New Delhi, Kolkata, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bangalore are bursting at the seams. But in reality, India is made up of a million small villages and village life is intimate.
Narasimha was born into a farmer’s family in one such village – Kondakomarla, in the South India state of Andhra Pradesh. He says, “My village is like an extension of my beautiful family and spending my childhood in this idyllic place instilled in me a tremendous love of nature and everything visual.”
The love of visual imagery was cemented by his family’s favourite pastime of huddling around and flipping through well-thumbed photo albums. He noticed, “The albums evoked nostalgic smiles, peals of laughter and teary-eyed reminiscences of people much loved, and long gone.”
From volunteering to capture candid happenings at family weddings with relatives’ cameras to finally owning one of his own, Narasimha has come along way with his art in a short time. His father gifted him his first smartphone in 2017 and it is still a smartphone that he most often captures images with because it is always there when he sees something. What’s that saying about the best camera is the one you use!?! Narasimha say, “I believe that photography helps me hold on to not just memories, but also truly positive and personal experiences that I would like to share with the world.”
engineering versus art
Though he’s gone to university and has an Engineering degree, his inspirations remain constant. Home and family, the earth and the farmland around him and the smiling faces of the people in his village. “My photography is impressionistic, and focuses on discovering the rustic beauty of the culture and the land that I grew up in. On voicing values that I firmly believe in – like being kind to animals and to the planet. On telling the stories that my beloved village whispers to me.”
Right now Narasimha’s village is whispering about water. The spring rains are late. The farmers wait each day to plant, looking up at the sky with hopeful expectancy. When the rains come and fill the core wells they can grow groundnuts, sunflower, rice, cotton, maize, chillies, sugarcane, plus mangoes, oranges, sweet limes, grapes, chikoo, water melon, lemons, jamun and green leaf vegetables like coriander, curry leaves and spinach.
Narasimha and his elder brother have 10 acres of family land but only enough water to work two to four of those acres. Water is scarce not only for farming but for daily living as well. From the balcony of his home Narasimha sees people lining up at the village water taps. Some women come late in the night after all their other work is done.
An insider’s perspective
Being an insider, Narasimha can click his way through his village without people taking much note. They go on with their lives, he observes everything about them and the world they live in. Photos of the farmland reveals the dryness.
So, Narasimha is working with a community initiative to improve the lives of the people in his beloved home place. There’s a need for sanitation, drinking water and education for the poor. Tree planting, coir rope making, baking and dairy farming are potential ways to diversify incomes, Narasimha has decided to use his art to support himself and raise funds for his village. He is selling prints of his fine art photography. You can buy them on his website or on his Instagram account.
As my guru, Sadhguru says, “Life is a purpose unto itself.” For those that are willing to put the lives of others higher than their own, they become like the air – giving life and nursing everything around them. Those that seek competence, empowerment and doing nothing less than their very best, they will be successful.
Ending this story with one of Narasimha’s photos called “Life” seems a good way to finish. Who could look at this face and not see this life, this human as a purpose unto itself?
Perhaps that’s the greatest power of this artist’s work, bringing the humanity of a small village in India to light. In the light we will see it and feel the reality of our global village. Perhaps, we’ll even buy a print and help an artist keep on his mission to improve the lives of others while we are at it.