A Myth of Two Souls is inspired by the epic tale The Ramayana. Drawing inspiration from the imagery associated with this myth and its pervasiveness in everyday Indian life, Vasantha Yogananthan is retracing the legendary route from north to south India. First recorded by the Sanskrit poet Valmiki around 300 BC, The Ramayana has been continuously rewritten and reinterpreted, and continues to evolve today. Yogananthan’s series is informed by the notion of a journey in time and offers a modern retelling of the tale.
A Myth of Two Souls juxtaposes several sets of photographs: landscapes, hand-painted staged portraits and illustrated black and white photographs. The landscapes are mythical to Indians today as they were described in the original version of The Ramayana. In the portraits, inhabitants of these landscapes stage scenes for the camera that have left a mark on their imagination. Shot in black and white using a large-format camera, these theatrically staged portraits have subsequently been coloured by an Indian artist using the ancient technique of “hand-painting”. As for the illustrated photographs, Vasantha Yogananthan has been working closely with two artists in the tradition of Madhubani painting, one of the oldest art forms from Mithila region of Bihar, which is characterized by eye-catching geometrical patterns.
Through classic colour, black and white, hand-painted and illustrated photography, A Myth of Two Souls interweaves fictional and historical stories with a narration that takes viewers on an epic journey.
Yogananthan's journey is epic itself, covering 3,500 miles by 2019. Since 2013 he has done seven trips in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Nepal, and has four more to go. A Myth of Two Souls will be published in seven photobooks between 2016-2019, one per chapter of the tale.
(The Promise, Janakpur, Nepal, 2016. Black and white C-print hand-painted by Jaykumar Shankar)