Synopses & Reviews
Photographer Laura McPhee, noted for her stunning large-scale landscapes and portraits of the people who live and work in them, has been traveling to eastern India for over a decade. There she has devoted her perceptive vision to picturing layers of history, culture, religion, and class as they appear in private heritage homes and public markets, in lively street festivals, and in the faces of city dwellers in Calcutta (also known as Kolkata).
This exquisitely produced book features a selection of McPheeandrsquo;s works made in and around Indiaandrsquo;s former capital. Here we glimpse courtyards, living spaces, temples, and altars as both vestiges of the past and elements of contemporary urban existence. McPheeandrsquo;s images sensitively penetrate the surface to show the blurred boundaries between social classes, the blending of public and private life, and the resonance between India and other parts of the world. Also included are a foreword by Amitav Ghosh on the historical divisions inherent in the cityandrsquo;s culture and on the nature of McPheeandrsquo;s work, and an essay by art historian Romita Ray on the ways McPhee captures and distills the remnants of colonial Calcutta in her photographs of the contemporary city.
Under the Banyan Tree is the first comprehensive study of the evolution and flourishing of the picturesque during the British Raj. Romita Ray argues that this concept allowed British artists and writers traveling in India to aestheticize the Indian landscape, its people, and the biota (the banyan tree and the elephant, above all). These ideas not only shaped specific landscapes in India, but also fed the imagination of a global audience throughout the British empire. The material in this engaging text ranges from river landscapes and tea plantations to elephants and bejeweled Indian princes, shedding light on how the concepts of picturesque beauty and pleasure were diversified in India, sometimes dramatically beyond their conventional parameters. Exquisitely illustrated with unusual and beautiful images, Under the Banyan Tree is both a starting point for examining the function of the picturesque and an insightful addition to scholarship investigating British art and empire in the 18th and 19th centuries.
The first substantial exploration of the picturesque in British India, revealing how the Indian landscape generated fresh ways of presenting this concept to British artists and writers.
This book portrays the unique and vibrant city of Calcutta in an intriguing array of captivating and visually arresting photographs.
About the Author
Laura McPhee, professor of photography at the Massachusetts College of Art and Design, has published her work extensively. Amitav Ghosh has published many novels, including River of Smoke, Sea of Poppies, and The Shadowlines. Romita Ray is associate professor of art history at Syracuse University and author of Under the Banyan Tree (Yale).and#160;