Arvind Hoon records the many moods of the Dal Lake in a new book
The mirror-like waters of the Dal lake in Srinagar, Kashmir, mesmerised me as a child. It has a chameleon quality, changing hue and colour in response to the trajectory of the sun as it arches across each day, rising from behind the Zabarvan to set beyond Hari Parbat.
I was fortunate enough to have spent many a summer vacation as a child on the banks of the Dal, with limited access to my father’s camera. Colour film and processing were expensive in the 1970s. Otherwise, my quest to shoot the mercurial waters of the Dal would have started much earlier.
I rediscovered it in 2010, when I returned to Kashmir as a professional photographer. I visited it over a period of four years (this time with the luxury of a digital camera) and across seasons, in an attempt to capture its moods.
Each visit would throw up some special images. Subsequent attempts to photograph the same were in vain, though often I would find something even more unique and special. On one particular visit I got nothing, as the lake was covered in a grass-like algae; the water was just not visible.
As the body of work grew, several visual narratives started emerging. A photo exhibition was what I had in mind, but eventually decided that a book would reach out to a more focused audience. I whittled down my collection of 6,000-plus images to around 900. I was in love with each of them.
Fortunately, Sanjeev Saith (the editor of this book) took a shine to my pictures. Over a period of six months, I watched him transform a large body of pictures into a tight, powerful visual narrative. The end result is my first photo book, Unsettled Waters.
Unsettled Waters, published by Face North Pictures, is available now.
Light in May: Mid-morning sunlight. A hanji (boatman) gathers deadwood and weeds.
Sale Boat: Late afternoon in a quiet, shaded corner of the Dal. A shawl vendor waits patiently for a customer.
Speaking Walls: An abandoned home with a traditional Kashmiri balcony
Twilight: Sundown on the boulevard near the Dal Gate, kicking up a palate of soothing, shimmering blues
The Call: After a morning ride, my eye fell on a mosque and its shining green and white minaret, restlessly undulating in the water
Chair Trigger: Early morning, around 7 am. Will there be a cup of tea this morning?
Arvind Hoon left behind decades in advertising to build a photography practice. His work on Gurgaon was shown at the Millennium Dreams exhibition in 2014. He was featured in the Luciano Benetton Collection at the Venice Biennale 2013.
This photo-essay was first published in the first issue of Volume 4 (Oct-Dec 15) of The Indian Quarterly magazine. Buy your copy here.