Trunks and Tales

Rajesh Bedi’s photographs of elephants shed light on an endangered species.

Written by Pallavi Chattopadhyay | Published: September 9, 2015 12:00 am

Intensely social, with large brains and famously long memories, they appear to express a wide range of emotions and personalities,” says Rajesh Bedi, about the subject of his exhibition, elephants. Bedi has a 30-year experience of photographing pachyderms and depicts their similarities with humans through a display of 45 photographs in “Elephant — The Divine Mystery” at Visual Arts Gallery in India Habitat Centre, Delhi.

One photograph is of elephants with glistening skins after a bath as they spray mud on themselves. Their “upturned trunk” posture has been depicted in Indian art since earliest times wherein they spray flowers or coins on deities. The caption next to a photograph of wild elephants near a waterhole says that they can detect water sources as far as 19 km away.

Bedi points to a photograph of a tusker enjoying a dust bath to protect its skin from sunburn and insects, and calls his protagonists “yogis of the forests”. These peaceful, silent walkers remind him of the sadhus who ritually coat their naked bodies with ash.

The 65-year-old photographer’s fascination with elephants began during childhood days while exploring the forests near his home in Haridwar with his father. While camping in jungles across India, such as Kaziranga, Corbett and Rajaji, he captured rare moments in the lives of elephants — sometimes at the risk of near-fatal attacks.

“India is home to 25,000-30,000 wild elephants, making up 50 per cent of the population of Asian elephants. The pressures on wild places and the conflict between man and elephant results in around 100 elephant and 500 human deaths per year,” he says.

The exhibition is on display till Sept10. Contact: 24682002
pallavi.chattopadhyay@expressindia.com

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