Photographer Jack Kenyon discovered the spirit of India after missing a camel fair

London-based photographer Jack Kenyon unwittingly embarked on a six-week trip to India after failing to attend a camel fair. While he may have missed his original reason for jetting out, he instead found the youthful spirit of India and saw the country in a whole new light in his new series of photos titled Bharat Mata.

Jack Kenyon has a knack for seeking out the stranger quirks of everyday English life. We’ve previously looked at how he captured the peculiarity of East London teens renting out luxury cars for prom night, so it makes sense that he would be prepared to fly out to India to document the world’s largest camel fair. Sadly for him, though, this plan didn’t come to pass.

“I’d just finished a series of pictures in the UK about men who grow giant vegetables, and I was eager to experiment by taking the same approach abroad,” Jack tells Creative Boom. “I’d seen that India holds the largest camel festival in the world, at the Pushkar Fair, which was my original reason for visiting. It turned out that they changed the dates of the camel fair without updating their website, so I essentially missed what I travelled 4,000 miles to see.”

He adds: “Arriving at the Pushkar Camel Fair expecting to see 50,000 camels and finding a sparse desert with less than 200 camels remaining was both tragic and darkly comical. But it all worked out in the end, and I made a much broader series of pictures across the country capturing my take on Bharat Mata or Mother India.”

Given that the whole trip was organised around the camel fair in north India, Jack decided to arrive a few weeks beforehand and make his way up through the country. Even though he would eventually be disappointed by the lack of said festival, he made the most of his trip by continuing through the states of Kerala, Tamil Nadu, Rajasthan, Uttar Pradesh, Sikkim and West Bengal.

Yet, despite being far from home, Jack would run into familiar places and situations. “Towards the start of the trip, I visited the Wonderla Water Park near Kochi, one of the country’s biggest amusement parks,” he explains. “I love all the pictures I took there, especially the top-down wave pool photos of the boys splashing around in their European football shirts.

“With so much going on in one frame, I think there’s a lot of depth, and I also love the colours and the raucous fun taking place. It reminds me of how much I enjoyed water parks as a kid.”

As well as being somewhat nostalgic, the trip also proved to be enlightening. The more Jack saw the country, the more he got to know its people and character. “I had no idea how young the population was, but you can really feel it throughout the country,” he adds.

“I learnt that India has the largest youth population in the world (over 808 million people, or about 66% of its total population, are under the age of 35). The country feels full of energy in a way that’s very different to many European countries I’ve visited. I tried to capture this feeling in some of my pictures.”

Every project comes with its share of challenges, though, and Bharat Mata is no exception. “Walking around various cities, the sensory overload was sometimes very intense, with non-stop sounds, smells and sights,” Jack adds. “Having a quiet place to retreat to was vital at many points.”

However, the six-week time span of this series did allow Jack to push himself as a photographer and try new techniques. “Usually, I take pictures in short bursts, a few days here and there, and I often control the lighting using flash and maybe an assistant,” he says.

“To have so much time and complete freedom on this trip was a blessing, but I also felt the danger of not making a cohesive set of pictures. Despite this, I think I managed to maintain my aesthetic – bright, colourful, humorous – throughout the series, which gives me confidence for future trips.”

Explore the full collection of images from Jack’s Bharat Mata series by heading over to his website.

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