The Magnificent Vastness of Things: Uma Iyer
These mountains with dunes and deserts with hardly any ridges can overwhelm you with their enormity. This immobility is tender and can heal those who battle the touch of ennui. Adding to this magic are the clouds that float above; mute cottony things speckling the blue skies like white inkblots on blue paper, like it were possible.
Then you cannot believe these serene clouds were once the callous vortexes that wound the seas, and metaphors come cloaked in scientific correctness, and it all becomes too much to take in. That’s when some of us chronicle these stories in the form of words or photos. And that’s what Ms Iyer did when she compiled the glory of Ladakh into a coffee-table book and called it Ladakh: Visual Odyssey by Uma Iyer.
Her journey into the world of photography started about 25 years ago, when she got to possess a camera. As a little girl, she was always fascinated by her father’s passion for photography, and he used to make her strike a pose and take pictures.
When asked about her introduction to photography, she says, “The art of composition came to me naturally, as I grew up watching my dad working with slides and movies and regular photography. But when I was looking for a photography workshop in 2012, I learned about Toehold and its unique way of teaching the concepts of photography. And I was sold to the idea of a Photo Tour. After the photography workshop and a Photo Tour to Kabini later, I was excited about my new understanding of the camera, its features, and elements that makes a photograph good.”
She continues with the same infectious excitement: “I had been to Kabini about 10 times before my first Toehold Photo Tour to the same place, but never had I spotted a big cat. During the Tour, not only did I get to see the elusive cats, but also beheld the charm of the place with new eyes. And there is always so much learning on the field.”
Ms Iyer cannot get enough of experimenting with ways of composition in landscape photography. She says she wouldn’t mind going back to Ladakh and Austria time and again, because they happen to be her favourite places. She is planning to go to Svalbard because the very remoteness of the place enthrals her and she hopes to have an amazing sight of the polar bear.
Her book on Ladakh brings not only breathtaking landscape images, but also the pictures of Buddhist stupas, meditational mini walls, pebbles with mantras inscribed on them, and prayer flags spreading spiritual messages, to the viewer’s table. Ms Iyer dedicates the book to Sachin Rai and Venkatesh Katta, the Toehold Skippers who helped her look at Ladakh in a different light.
A humble Ms Iyer is a woman of few words who’d rather let her pictures talk. The images are refreshing in their perspective and portray her explorative instincts in vivid colours and assured angles. Although she has many years of experience in the HR sector with reputed IT companies, Ms Iyer knows her ways of retreat into the less-populated lands whenever she feels like it.
An avid traveller, Ms Iyer is also an ardent admirer of nature and its myriad marvels. Her attention to details is arrested in the pictures she has captured, and her love for beauty even in the smallest of things becomes evident with the quote by Aristotle that her book begins with.
She does not forget to express her gratitude to the Toehold Skippers, and asserts that their expert guidance has not only enhanced her skills as a photographer, but also inspired her to observe the world with a keener eye.
Tastefully compiled as a book, Uma Iyer’s photos in Ladakh: Visual Odyssey can leave you enchanted on a languid monsoon evening, when you prefer enjoying your coffee and travelling mentally to the lands you wish to explore or have explored already but still continue to be amazed by.
Following this book, Ms Iyer has gone on to produce two more books, one of them comprising pictures from her Kenya Photo Tour. She extolls how she likes to engage herself in the process of shortlisting photographs, designing the layout of the book, and getting it printed.
Watching the world through others’ eyes can open up new avenues in the mind of an explorer, and that’s precisely what Ms Iyer’s photos do – leave one beautifully haunted and immensely inspired. The images she has adeptly captured lie frozen in time, but they certainly stir the soul of a traveller.