Photographer Anu Kumar on reconnecting with her Indian heritage, failing exams and recipes for weddings

Photographer Anu Kumar on reconnecting with her Indian heritage, failing exams and recipes for weddings

So, having developed the necessary skills and increasingly honing her visual language, Anu set out to begin her series Nagar, which means “town”. Taking daily ambles with her two aunties, she re-discovered the town she was born in, taking photos as she went. “They would run errands, and I would have my waist finder camera slug around my shoulder”, she recalls. Anu loved the unpredictability of these walks, never knowing what she would come across. “There were many walks when I wouldn’t take a single picture and others where I’d take multiple rolls.”

Anu’s photographic explorations of her heritage took on a new perspective after her Nana Ji (grandfather) passed away in 2018. In all the four years she had been documenting Nagar, she’d accumulated an “endless archive of strangers from the street” but not a single photograph of her Nana Ji. “That’s when I started documenting my home life in Kavi Nagar, and the two projects intertwined in a way, inside and outside the home.”

And so a new series entitled Ghar (home), began to take shape. This series is composed of intimate moments spent with her family. Rarely showing the faces of the family member, she instead focuses on little details which encapsulate the feeling of home: the carefully arranged folds of a family member’s clothes, the soles of someone’s feet as they take a nap, or the hands of an aunt preparing a meal. One of her favourite images in the series shows the cooking utensils used by the Halwai at her cousin’s wedding back in 2019. “Halwai” are sweet makers who come to weddings and cook, Anu explains. “We provided all the ingredients, and they cooked. In this case they made hundreds of Laddus.” Again, in this photograph, the human presence is insinuated thoughtfully through symbolic objects rather than depicted directly.

“I’m sitting with my aunt now”, says Anu. Eager to share her memory from the wedding day, her aunt recites the shopping list she made. Next time you need to make a jumbo batch of deliciously sweet Laddus, Anu’s aunt has got you sorted. You’ll need:

20kg Basin (gram flour)

1kg watermelon seeds

30kg Sugar

30L Refined cooking oil

Green cardamom (“she forgets the quantity”)

Anu is currently visiting her family in India: “I feel now that I’m here I can close the chapter on this project, and start something new”. As she works on cooking up new ideas for her next project, she is pleased to say that Nagar and Ghar will be published together as a book later this year with Perimeter Editions.

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