Magical Reality

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Spiti’s bare landscape pulls you in as much does the warmth of the people from the valley, believes photographer Idris Ahmed.

When he caught his first glimpse of Spiti’s aloof landscape, Idris Ahmed was hooked. The old-world charm of the valley, coupled with the warmth of its people, inspired him to return to Spiti year after year. His solo exhibition, Daughter of the Sea, chronicles his spiritual connection with the valley and its folk. “My wife and I usually bike down to Ladakh. However, a couple of years back, I got a break only of seven to eight days. As it wasn’t enough to go to Ladakh, we decided to go to Spiti,” says Idris.

The first expedition did not really go well as he spent the entire journey maneuvering the treacherous Hindustan-Tibet Road to get to Spiti. But the following year, he found himself retracing his steps to the valley. “There was something in the place that kept calling out to me. It was almost like a spiritual connection,” he says.

He eventually left his job as a photography teacher to document the stunning beauty of the valley. His photographs don’t go down the usual travelogue route with mere images of the landscape. Most visuals have a human element to establish a relationship between the land and its people. “There is no doubt that the landscape is stunning. But the old-world culture and the inherent goodness of the people add beauty to the place,” says Idris. “I don’t shoot people on the spur of the moment. I spend time with them, and then take their photograph. For instance, there is a photograph of a lady sharing her food. I was passing by a field when she offered me a cup of tea. I sat with her and talked for hours,” he adds. This exhibition is not just a story of his self-discovery but also an ode to the spirit of Spiti and its people.