When coming up with ideas for photographing the unseen at first I wanted to stick to something conceptual because the main chunk of my photography is of documentary character. For me photographing the unseen implies giving the viewer enough information to create his or her own narrative derived from the subject when looking at the images. In order to not make it into a documentary sequence I should really stick to something very personal. However, since Assignment 3 is already going to be a self portrait, I thought I'd give myself the freedom to bring some documentary elements in this assignment after all. I live in a too exciting place to not do that anyway!
Nowadays Kotla Feroz Shah, the ruins of a 14th century city in the Center of Delhi is more known for the government of Djinns that is supposed to reside there than its monumental value. Djinns are formless spirits that according to the Quran, were created together with men:
“And we certainly created man out of clay from an altered black mud. And the Jinn, we created before, from scorching fire” ( The Quran 15:26 & 15:27)
Djinns live longer than men and are able to travel fast from one location to the other and also through time. They can be either good or evil, especially when they possess men, but are mostly known as friendly fairies who can help people in their troubles, forgive sins and fulfil wishes. Djinns have a governmental structure and allows people to bring their wishes and prayers to be offered in the form of writings. These letters are very formal and copied, often with a passphoto and identification number.
Every Thursday hundreds of people go to Kotla Feroz Shah to bring their requests or thanks in the form of candles, incense and flower petals. Spiritual advisors give blessings and speak on behalf of the Djinns. At the end of the evening, after everybody is gone, the Djinns come out to read the letters and listen to the requests and meet to solve problems.
I read an article by a Phd student who studies this phenomenon. According to him the ritual has become more popular after times in which the Muslim community was repressed, after the partition, the emergency and the first uprising in 1847. According to him it seems that when people cannot find acknowledgment in the institutions that are present, they look for help elsewhere. So not only is the city of Djinns a place to bring your worries and joys, it is also a place to feel acknowledged and recognised.
Personally I don't believe in Djinns, but I am fascinated with the people who come here every week, the stories they have, their requests and miracles they have experienced. Most people are Muslim, but also Sikhs and Hindus come to offer to the Djinns. My idea for this assignment is to show a Thursday afternoon in Kotla Feroz Shah through images and use texts that I have found in articles about wishes that have been granted, the problems that people come with and the history of the djinns in this place as relaying captions.
Because of the captions, I hope to bring the place, rituals and especially the people alive and help installing a connection between the subject in the image and its viewer. When I was there, I didn't find it scary or creepy at all, mostly because I understood that the people coming there were just like me, struggling and rejoicing with life, looking for answers and having dreams. In the end, we all struggle with the same issued in life and find ways to deal with them. It made me feel the magic, even though I really don't believe in Djinns.
With this assignment I hope to be able to establish this experience of wonder, magic and understanding through my images and words.
Below is an overview of my initial selection of images I want to choose from. In my next postings I will write about my selection process and captions.