The victory of good over evil, the inner light that protects us from spiritual darkness: that's the traditional autumnal Indian holiday, Diwali. For the occasion, Visionnaire participates to this celebration of life through its photography exhibition, Varanasi, a solo show by Paolo Balboni entirely dedicated to the holiest Hindu city.
“Cities enter you through the senses. Sometimes you are dazzled by the beauty of what you see. At other times, the deafening noise of rush hour traffic wakes you up like a slap on the face. Or the strong smells of a market at dawn sting your nostrils, guiding you through a cluttered sea of stalls. There are other things that you touch, like a wall that conceals centuries of histories in its cracks or a polished floor where wealthy women have danced.
Varanasi is all of this. Varanasi takes your senses and turns them into sponges, sponges that come out soaked with life until you believe that the rest of the world is just a breath, while the city is a cry.
Varanasi is the centre of Hinduism, the very essence of India.
One million pilgrims visit each year and it is believed that anyone who dies in the area around Panch Koshi Road, a road north of the Varuna River, will pass directly to the kingdom of heaven, freeing themselves from the cycle of rebirths.
The whole life of the city seems to flow with the same calm constancy of the river that crosses it. Along the steps of the Ghats, life and death coincide, together with poverty, wealth and infinite spirituality.
People come here to pray and rest, to live and die at the same time, day after day.
The river is always present in the images taken by Balboni, even when it does not appear.
You can sense it in the deep looks of certain elderly women.
You can sense it in children’s smiles and in the unkempt beards of ascetics.
You can sense it in priests’ deep wrinkles and beggars’ hands.
The river is always present, between life and death, in Varanasi.“