“Southern India Bound” by Andrew Jacona {featuring Zane Yau}

A friend and I had talked about creating a trip together for some time.  With our shared interest in film photography and travelling, we began plans for a three-week journey through Southern India.

The route which we’d traced out on a map over a few dinners in Chinatown, Sydney, strung together places we imagined would be worthwhile stops between Chennai on the Bay of Bengal, and the small coastal town of Kovalam in Kerala, from which we would head back to Sydney. 

It is a pleasure to be able to share some of our experiences from this vibrant and colourful part of the world.

The following collection is a small glimpse of our three-week journey.

Elliot's Beach Finshing Village
Elliot’s Beach is at the Southern end of Marina Beach, a playground for the people of the city of Chennai and one of the worlds longest urban beaches. It was a surprise, on the first morning, to find a slum and a community of fishermen living there (Photos by Andrew Jacona)
Queen's Fort Gingee
View from the Queens Fort looking towards the Kings Fort on the left, in Gingee, Tamil Nadu. Notice the curtain of rain on the top quarter of the frame? About 20mins before this image it passed over us dumping tons of water. It was spectacular waiting out the rain in the ruins with the local Macaques. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Elliots Beach Horse
Elliot’s Beach, Chennai. A sacred Marwari horse and rider plying the beach in search of custom to take for short rides. During the time of the British Raj, this horse was nearly made extinct due to preference over other breeds and targeted elimination. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Vizhinjam Fishermen
Vizhinjam fishing harbour, Kovalam. What an incredible experience for a city boy to witness the pace and scale of fishing boats constantly landing and launching on the beach and to hear the crowd bartering negotiations over the sale of the nights’ catch.  One strong and disturbing memory is seeing the freshly butchered remains of a dolphin washing in the surf. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
A man tending his goats by the side of the road that leads up into the Western Ghats and onto Munnar. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Bus Driver
I’m a bus driver back in Sydney so it was great taking this gentleman’s portrait here at the Gingee Bus Terminus. There were an unspoken rapport and familiarity with this man as well as with another bus driver I met, who was an extra on a movie set in Fort Kochi. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Morning Walker
A man with his morning paper in Kumarakom, Kerela. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)

We both loved taking environmental portraits and the challenges of trying to create one lets you enter the life of the person, if only for a brief moment.

It’s a process I love, find exhilarating, as well as a challenge to do well.  Zane Yau, my travelling partner was great at developing rapport and fearlessly asking for a picture and it was because of him I was able to create many of the pictures I am happiest of.

Laundry Worker
A tea break for a worker at one of the last of its kind traditional laundries in Fort Kochi, Kerela. You hear the work before you see it, the slapping of wet fabric on cement blocks to dislodge dirt. These men spend hours standing in water, hanging to dry, and finally pressing their workload. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Tea Factory Worker
A tea factory worker overlooking a grinding machine. At 7,900 ft above sea level, Kolukkumalai Tea Factory is one of the highest and oldest operating tea factories in the world. You get a real sense of old world charm visiting here that overtakes all your senses. It’s a bumpy but stunning Mahindra Jeep ride up to the factory, passing villages and seemingly endless tea plantations, I could have spent days exploring (Photo by Andrew Jacona)

We stayed for three nights in each destination and while two full days in any one place is still brief, it proved to be a good approach.

There are now a number of places I would choose to spend weeks in – Tiruvannamalai, Kovalam, and Munnar.

October in Southern India proceeds the monsoon months of June to September so there is still abundant rain, overcast skies, and in the higher regions, clouds of mist and fog.  I loved the varied weather during the trip for the character and atmosphere it lent to locations.

Munnar Tea Plantation
Late one evening on our way back to Munnar we stopped by the road to take a couple of shots, Zane had seen an interesting stand of trees on a hillside earlier in the day. It was getting dark quickly as it does in the tropics and with the fading light and fog, it was compelling. Another interesting element, which you can’t see in the photograph, was the presence of fireflies at the bottom of the frame. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Vizhinjam Fishing Boat
Vizhimjam Fishing Harbour in the morning. I was given a brief history of this fishing harbor by some friendly and informative locals and it tells of many bloody battles between competing powers. A Wikipedia search brings up fascinating stories about its maritime trade and political histories. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Sleeping Child
Sleeping child Madurai day markets. It was a disappointment that cameras aren’t allowed any more into the Meenakshi Amman Temple but it was a good opportunity to wander the local markets and produce storage yards which probably ended up being more authentic and unstaged.(Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Backwaters Morning Light
Early morning on a channel in the backwaters of Kumarakom just off Vembanad Lake, Kerela. There are hundreds of kilometres of these backwater “roads” with villages and communities interspersed throughout.  It’s one of the features that Kerela is most well known for. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Kochin Couple
A couple posing for some engagement pictures at Fort Cochin. The photographer and videographer were kind enough to let us take a couple of shots. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Puddukotai Markets
Karaikudi market was a great place to walk around, interact with people and explore. After I took this picture the aunties shared some spicy snacks with me, I know through friendliness but I can’t help but think of as a humorous gesture. The lady in the centre of the frame has a strong gaze. I would love to have sat down and conversed with them if given the language fluency.  The stories these women could have told I’d imagine would be full of life’s human drama. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)

India is a compelling destination and has been for generations from all parts of the world.  Perhaps it’s the need to see the world from a different point of view radically different to ours only to come to the understanding of how similar we are.

For me, a lot of the attraction is its topography and I would venture to guess that it has one of the most varied of any country on earth.  From the tropical Andaman Islands and southern states to the deserts of Rajasthan, as well the otherworldly peaks of the Himalayas.  This diversity in its landscapes is overlaid with the fabric of its many religions, traditions, and populations.  How can one person ever experience and interact with all of those parts of one country?

Kovalam Worker
This man was a so skilled at climbing and descending with only a small piece of bamboo fibre looped around his ankles. Such a happy presence as well and it reminds me of the saying that if you’re “successful” but not happy then you’re not really “successful”. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Visitors to India will be familiar with the welcome rituals where you are offered a red mark in between your eyes.  Along with that are flowers in some form as a garland, decoration or as an offering. The presence of light symbolizes the absence of darkness, grief and unhappiness. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Shore Temple
Mahabalipuram’s famous Shore Temple. I knew Zane, my travel partner didn’t want to get stuck at too many tourist traps but I couldn’t help myself.  I always find behind the scenes activity and the way the experience is structured to be interesting. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)

As a traveller, I think you have the privileged experience of being able to observe peoples lives, entering as a guest and leaving without burden.

Kumakarom Fishermen
Fishermen at Lake Vembanad from the Kumarakom side. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Stone Carving Walk
Off to one side of Krishna’s Butter Ball at Mahabalipuram is a little grove of rock carvings and open-air reliefs. They celebrate the glory of Shiva, the divinity in Hinduism that is attributed to the power of destruction and transformation. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)
Film Set
A Mollywood film set in Fort Kochi.  Apart from Hindi, there are films made in the other main languages of India. One evening walking around we came across a movie being made in the local language of Malayalam.  They didn’t seem to mind us talking to some of the extras and set crew and allowed us to walk around the set watching the movie being made. (Photo by Andrew Jacona)

Travellers know there are moments of awe, surprise, and wonder.  I think they are the rewards in looking into the unknown, the rewards for looking for what is beautiful.

This trip will always be remembered with my travel partner Zane.  To not feature some of his photography wouldn’t do this feature justice and his work alone could fill an entire blog post.  Please find a small selection of Zane’s engaging and outstanding images from our trip.

Madurai is a fascinating place with a wholesale banana market and a fruit and vegetable market right next to it. This portrait of a young stall operator was taken at one of the hundreds of stalls in this market. (Photo by Zane Yau)
Father, daughter and a stranger (me) equal to colour and smile of India. Rewarding and satisfying picture for interacting with the locals. (Photo by Zane Yau)
Our driver wondered why we stopped so often to drink chai…. smooth & aromatic. (Photo by Zane Yau)
Holy man – natural grab shot vs posed shots. This was one of our most discussed topics during the trip. We really struggled to achieve a balance for what we call travel documentary. Andrew’s approach to his photography is a more learned and thoughtful approach while I shoot what my heart tells me and worry about it later. (Photo by Zane Yau)
There is a line of little shops near Fort Kochi with rice brokers and spice sellers. We explored shop by shop and observed their business activities. Both Andrew and I have collected some amazing but honest environmental portraits of these men. (Photo by Zane Yau)
The wholesale banana market in Madurai. (Photo by Zane Yau)
The banana market, Madurai – strong midday sun and a man you don’t want to mess with. (Photo by Zane Yau)
Che Guevara, a Cuban communist figure, in the newspaper reading room in Fort Kochin, Kerala. (Photo by Zane Yau)
Z48-02 copy
Karaikudi – A town famous for its heritage and architecture. (Photo by Zane Yau)
Z48-12 copy
Karaikudi – During this trip, we achieved a good balance between covering the famous monuments and exploring the streets. It’s often rewarding waking up an hour earlier and going for a photo walk before we start our day. (Photo by Zane Yau)
Z14-11 copy
Madurai (Photo by Zane Yau)
Z46-2-07 copy
Karaikudi (Photo by Zane Yau)
Z15-08 copy
Madurai (Photo by Zane Yau)
Z19-05 copy
Madurai (Photo by Zane Yau)
Z16-09 copy
Madurai (Photo by Zane Yau)
Z15-03 copy
Madurai (Photo by Zane Yau)
Z20-08 copy
Madurai (Photo by Zane Yau)
Z16-08 copy
Madurai (Photo by Zane Yau)

Although the number of Zane’s work shared is small, John says there is the possibility that a Southern India Series II could be presented.

I hope to put together a small exhibition sometime. It’s one thing to see them on screen and quite another surprise to see familiar images in print form.

About Andrew Jacona

Andrew resides in Sydney New South Wales and finds excitement and adventure through his family and travel photography.  In the time until the next trip (unknown destination or when)  he’s focusing his energy towards his family life.

We used Michael’s Camera who completed an amazing job of professionally developing on their “Dip & Dunk” developer to ensure premium quality (https://michaels.com.au).  Thank you, Carly Michaels and staff, for your tireless efforts and communication on progress of the large quantity of rolls developed (200+ rolls of Medium Format film)

Camera used was a Pentax 67II with the 45mm, 75mm, and 105mm. Fresh and expired films were used and 99% of the film was scanned personally on a Fuji Frontier SP3000 with a couple of frames through an Imacon 646.

Website: www.andrewjacona.com

Small Selection of Prints Available at: www.artfullywalls.com

Instagram: www.instagram.com/andrewjacona/

Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/ajacona/

About Zane Yau

Zane lives in Sydney and has been photographing as a (rather serious) hobby.  He loves shooting the landscape, people and culture of our beautiful planet and the experience of travelling to new places and meeting new people.  He shoots predominantly with medium format film in various formats.

Flickr: www.flickr.com/photos/zaneinzane/

Andrew (Back) Zane (Centre) Winson our Driver (Front).  (Photo by Winson Kanappilly)

Contributor: All images used with permission for AFPS.blog by Andrew Jacona & Zane Yau