LensWork Publication Skills Grant

Submission Info

Full Shade / Half Sun

Néha Hirve - ---------, Sweden/India

Full Shade/Half Sun is a photography project about the experimental community of people in the tropical dry forest of Tamil Nadu in India.

Blending the genres of documentary and fine art photography, Full Shade / Half Sun is not so interested in reportage or journalistic facts, but attempts to bring up philosophical and existential questions of the ways in which we find meaning in the world.

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“Tamil Nadu, India.
This land was a forest, once upon a time. The French and the British came and ravaged it to build their cities.
This land was a desert, then. The soil dried up and the water ran off, and nothing would grow.
People journeyed from the ends of the earth to the desert, people for whom ordinary life wasn't enough anymore, and they planted acacia trees to shelter them from the burning sun, and built their lives together and found meaning in the world once again. The acacia covered half the soil from the sun and the thorniest plants began to grow once again in their shade.
Now, the jungle is a womb. The thorns are impenetrable. The air in the tropics is like warm honey, viscous, sticky, filling the ears until the sounds of the outside world are far away. In the still light of the afternoons, the hours pass like days.
But every year, the summer comes, and with it, the memory of when there was nothing.”

The back-to-the-land movement is important to think about in today’s world steeped in environmental concerns. Is the way forward truly to take a step back?
Fifteen years ago, the land around the experimental township of Auroville, India, was a desert. The indigenous Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest had been almost completely eroded from deforestation and nothing could grow on the land. Aviram Rozin, an Israeli man, his wife and child, arrived by bullock cart and began the impossible mission of re-planting the forest in the desert. Today, the community of Sadhana forest has grown to a community of about 100 volunteers of all ages who together, keep planting.
The ground water level has risen by 6 meters and over 30,000 trees have been planted, but there is still much work to be done and the conditions are harsh. More than the reforestation work, however, the community is also an experiment in collective living off-the-grid. I have already spent 2 months in this community and photographed their way of life, and my personal experience being there.

With the money already received from other grants, I will complete the field work for this project by making two more trips to the community in India. The fine art photos from the work have been exhibited in galleries, but the ultimate goal for this project has always been to make a book with an independent publisher, blending archival, fine art, and other media in a non-traditional layout. I believe experimenting with organic materials and textures is an important part of bringing the feel of the environment to a book form.

What I would most benefit from in my career at this point is to learn about book design and layout. With the money from this grant, I plan to attend a few photobook workshops (the Self Publish, Be Happy workshop is one of them, but these workshops vary in location and time). The funding will be used for participation fees, and travel expenses. In addition, I will consult with and learn from a book designer, Josef Ruona, and use the funding for materials to experiment with making a physical book dummy, after which I will take on the next step of the project — which is to approach publishing houses to collaborate on a commercially printed photobook.



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