What makes watching people so fascinating? It’s a hobby of mine, one I adopted many years ago and now don’t even notice I’m doing… Sitting at a sidewalk cafe, trying to guess who these random passersby really are: their untold stories, unexpected character quirks and secret heartbreaks. I’ll catch a glimpse of a face, or overhear a throwaway comment and weave fictional realities about these people – strangers I’ve never met and never will.
This voyeuristic, story-telling nature of mine is what draws me to the work of photographer Caroline Gibello, whose exhibition of her latest body of work, A Woman Of India, opened at at Galleria Gibello in Cape Town on Friday night.
As its title suggests, the exhibition focuses on the women who tend the land of this mysterious country. ‘I followed peopleâ€™s lives,’ says Caroline, who spent weeks meandering along the Ganges River, meeting Holy Men, gypsies, women and children, each of whom allowed her rare glimpses into their daily routines and rituals.
What struck her most, she says, was their resilience and dignity: ‘These women have tough lives: you see them working the fields, moving rocks on their heads… And yet, they remain beautiful and proud.’
She’s right. Her portraits show women and young girls with dark, searching eyes, straight, proud features and soft, secret smiles. The washed-out colours, subtle shades and rich textures of her photographs add a surreal, dream-like ambience that brings home how different their reality is to ours – you almost get the feeling that you’ve stumbled upon a tribe that belongs to a different time. I can only imagine the stories they have to tell…
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