Thaipusam: Images and Reflections – An exploration of faith, sacrifice and surrender presents a unique collection of photographs, poems and narratives, with a foreword by V. S. Krishnan, an Indian scholar on Lord Muruga, the deity to whom Thaipusam is dedicated.
Also included are two personal sharings by Hindus who have taken part in the Thaipusam procession, which involves walking for hours carrying an offering from one temple to another. Many male devotees pierce their bodies with skewers and hooks to support a semi-spherical frame called a kavadi, or even drag a chariot, as they undertake the procession.
“One unique feature of our book is that we feature many different aspects of Thaipusam apart from the body piercings, which most photographers focus on,” says Richard. “We feature the preparations, prayer, family support, musicians, photographers and even the ornaments worn by participants and their supporters. We also look at non-Hindus, such as Chinese, who take part.
“In addition, many of our photographs go beyond the usual documentary, to present Thaipusam in an impressionistic and semi-abstract manner,” Richard adds. “We do this through photographic techniques such as extreme close-ups and intentional blurring.”
The book contains about 120 photographs selected from several thousand in the archives of the two photographers, with additional contributions from friends. They include photographs shot at the festival in Batu Caves, Malaysia.
Richard first photographed Thaipusam in the mid-1980s and has been doing so annually since 2004. Ramesh, an Indian national who has been living in Singapore for the past 15 years, began photographing Thaipusam regularly since 2010, although he had shot the event a few times previously. A devout Hindu, Ramesh further contributed nine poems dedicated to Lord Muruga.
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