KS: I remember being introduced to CC through Vasantha’s ongoing project A Myth of Two Souls. The project offers a retelling of Hindu epic The Ramayana through photography and mixed media. I had never seen such an expansive ‘photographic epic’ before, and each of these books have been both distinct episodes and part of a cohesive story. They really do feel epic. As a publisher, it must be exciting and intimidating to work on something over the course of seven books. Can you tell us a bit more about what this process has been like for both of you?
CPK: It’s the most challenging project within CC for sure. Perhaps the craziest, too? For me, the process hasn’t been that much different from the other books, except for the pace and the numerous volumes. But I work the same way as I do with the other artists. I was only seeing the work when Vasantha was coming back from a trip, and after he had processed the negatives and scans. I never travelled with him to India on this project, so I somehow have a distant eye on the series, I am not attached to a moment or a photograph when I edit, I just do it with the same objectivity as the other projects.
VY: This project has led me to explore things within the photobook format I would not necessarily have otherwise. I am trying to create a body of work in which the readers feel a forward momentum from book to book. Because the project has been developed over seven years and countless trips to India I gave myself the freedom to experiment, make mistakes, go back, etc. When I was travelling I had in mind what the books could be – their dominant colour, their photo-text dialogue, their materials and layouts. Thus the book format has informed the picture-making process. It is quite different to shooting a project for several years, to figuring out what you have done and to ordering things into a book.
KS: How did it all begin and where do you see it going?
VY: It began as a documentary photography oriented project and it has evolved towards fiction. I was 27 years old and self-taught when I started. I was trying to understand the kind of pictures I wanted to create. After two years shooting in the same fashion, I eventually bought a large format 4×5 camera and I started to stage portraits with the locals. Three years in the making I got bored of staging things. I then bought a 35mm camera. The next chapter is shot entirely at night. I know where the project is going but I won’t reveal it. Sometimes people think I am only retelling the old story of The Ramayana but the series is not only about the possibilities of storytelling but the medium itself. The most important thing for me is to keep this project as a space to experiment different picture-making processes.
KS: Are there any logistical challenges to publishing a 7 book series in four years?
CPK: It’s financially very difficult to keep up with the pace and publish 7 books by the same artist in such a short amount of time. We did get some grants and private funds from a few collectors but the books were mainly all fully funded by CC, which is something we’re also quite proud of. There was no certainty the series would find its public when we first announced the 7 books.
VY: Between the trips, the post production, the editing and the sequencing it is a lot of work. Sometimes it was too much and I would get a bit depressed but Cécile was there to push me.
KS: When will the last two chapters be available from CC?
VY: Chapter six, Afterlife will be released later this year. As for Amma, the seventh and last chapter, I hope to publish it by the end of the year.