Ian Lockwood


Archive for August 2014

Landforms of India

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Cover from Landforms of India book (published in July 2014). The image on the left is the view of the southern escarpment of the Palani Hills.

Cover from Landforms of India book (published in July 2014). The image on the left is the view of the southern escarpment of the Palani Hills.

Over the last few months I have been collaborating and contributing to several book projects that have given me a sense for the complexities of the design, layout, editing and printing of large coffee table books. It has been a healthy experience and moved me a few steps closer to getting my own projects on the Western Ghats and Sri Lanka off the ground. A handsome atlas that is hot off the press from Pragati Offset printers in Hyderabad is Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images. I was privileged to be able to contribute photographs as well as the text used in the introductory jacket flap of the book.

Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images is authored by Dr. R. Vaidyanadhan and Dr. K.V. Subbarao and is published by the Geological Society of India. It was supported by several key Indian agencies including the National Remote Sensing Centre, the Indian Space Research Organization (ISRO) and Geological Survey of India. It was by happy coincidence that the authors, both of who are eminent personalities in the world of geology and remote sensing, approached me to use some of my Western Ghats and NE India landscape work in their book. With the focus on education and helping students in schools and universities to better understand their country’s diverse physical geography, I was happy to get involved.

The Atlas is structured around 60 different sets of topographical maps (sourced from the Survey of India) that are aligned with remotely sensed images of the area and often include terrestrial photos of the same scene/or of similar features. They include a broad selection of examples of different features from all over the country (Jog falls in the Western Ghats, the Satpura Range, Himalaya, Khashi Hills, Brahmaputra etc.). There is a clear introduction to broad themes (remote sensing, topographical maps, terrestrial photographs etc.) and nomenclature. At the end of the book a helpful glossary highlights key terms. Several large, two-page spreads highlight some of the key physical features of Indian’s diverse landscape.

Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images was officially launched by the Geological Society of India on 25th July 2014 at the Sate Gallery of Fine Arts Hyderabad (I was unfortunately in transit back to Colombo from Madurai at the time). The atlas was released by Dr. Swarna Subba Rao, Surveyor General, SOI while the chief guest was Dr. Shailesh Nayak, Secretary to the Ministry of Earth Science.

Over the last years my interest in India’s landscapes, and specifically those of the Western Ghats, has used remotely-sensed images (especially NASA/USGS Landsat) to better understand features (including land cover) as well as change. Combining these satellite images with detailed ground truthing and analysis has now become a key aspect of my interest in the Western Ghats (and Sri Lankan) landscapes. Though the Landforms Atlas doesn’t use the Landsat images or my studies it has a wealth of ISRO-collected imagery (usually stressing the thermal or infrared bands) combined with difficult-to-access SOI maps. Much of this remotely sense imagery of India is now freely available through the Bhuvan web portal.

Introductory pages from Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

Introductory pages from Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

Screen shot of pages and examples of Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

Screen shot of pages and examples of Landforms of India from Topmaps and Images

This is not a small book and Landforms of India from Topomaps and Images is printed on a large (27 mm x 40 mm) scale, high quality paper. It is not priced cheaply but ,given what you get, the atlas is a worthy investment for individuals, institutions and libraries. If you have the remotest interest in India’s diverse physical Geography it is a must have resource. In sum “the union of different ways of viewing the earth’s features presented in this volume create a more holistic view of India’s geological and human landscape.”

At the moment the best way to get a copy of the book is to order it using the following form. It should be available in major bookstores in India in the coming months.

Landforms_of_India_from_Topomaps_&_Images (Order Form)


Written by ianlockwood

2014-08-04 at 4:38 pm

Steve McCurry in Kodaikanal

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Youth Magazine Cov

Cover and back page from Youth magazine August 1978. On the back cover are Salim Belhany, Audrey and Oshien Khatchlklan  in the Budge (Class of 1978). Yongyut Vutthisisisart (Class of 1979) is on the cover. Images by Steve McCurry.

The documentary and fine art portrait work of the American photographer Steve McCurry is legendary, as is his deep interest in South and South East Asia. I have been one of many anonymous fans who grew up learning about the world and India through his photo-essays in National Geographic magazine. While on our recent family journey following the monsoon across eastern, northern and southern India I had a chance to purchase a copy of McCurry’s splendid new book Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs published by Phaidon in 2013. This large coffee table book reproduces McCurry’s classic images along with commissioned essays on each of the major assignments (it’s not clear who the author of these is). The narratives behind his classic work on the Indian Railways, the monsoon, Afghanistan -where he photographed the iconic “Afghan Girl” – and other locations paint a vivid backdrop to McCurry’s spell-binding images. What caught my attention was the role that the once obscure Indian hill station of Kodaikanal played in McCurry’s pathway to success as one of the world’s most respected photojournalists.

In 1978 before he made a name for himself with major publications such as the New York Times National Geographic, and Time, Steve McCurry shot a photo essay on Kodaikanal School for Youth magazine, a publication of the United Church Press in Philadelphia. It was published in August 1978 and includes 16 black and white images of the school, its students, teachers, the setting and more. The article was written by Laruen Stockbower and it highlights the school as a unique, idealistic experiment in international living. For those of us at Kodai during that age (I arrived as an eight year old 3rd grader in July 1978) there are images of KS/KIS friends, and places that many of us know well. The opening shot shows Daivu Dhanapal modeling Tamil script to one of Kodai School’s students. She was an unforgettable teacher and bridge to the town’s Tamil speaking community. A small image on page 10 depicts principal Frank Jayasinghe and his assistant Neal Stixrud, who’s son Corey is the current KIS principal. There are a few images of students in the “budge” and the article mentions the uniquely Kodai consequence of “dorm pounding.” The ritual of canteen is highlighted in the article has are excerpts from Wendy Riber, Lyn Krause, Bob King. Mr. Sathi and others who were mentors to many of us. Portraits of Salim Behlany, Joe Thomas and others hint at McCurry’s unique ability to capture the essence of people in his images. My older fellow alumni who lived though this early golden age of the school –the ones that were the “big kids” while we were running around spying on them- will be able to recognize other friends, places and anecdotes.

Selected scans of pages form the 15 page Youth magazine article on Kodaikanal School (August 1978). Images by Steve McCurry.

Selected scans of pages from the 17 page Youth magazine article on Kodaikanal School (August 1978). Images by Steve McCurry.

What wasn’t obvious in the Youth article is that Steve McCurry got very sick while in Kodai. It was a time of a severe drought and water in the tea shops frequented by students and staff was suspect. Several students had contracted water borne diseases and issues of rabies with stray dogs caused significant pain to a number of students. Anyone who was a student at Kodai during this time will have memories of the warnings about water and drinking tea or eating out in the Budge. Rabies also seemed to be a reoccurring issue in Kodai and I remember long lines at the Dish (school dispensary) waiting for rabies shots and cholera inoculations.

Cover of Steve's McCurry's  Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs (Phaidon 2013)

Cover of Steve’s McCurry’s Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs (Phaidon 2013)

Here is the opening paragraph to “India by Rail” in Untold: The Stories Behind the Photographs (p. 27)

“Steve McCurry’s fascination with the vast network of trains that criss-cross India was originally inspired by ta classic tale of travel, Paul Theroux’s The Great Railway Bazaar (1975). Paradoxically he came across it during a period of enforced immobility. In 1978 at he age of 28, McCurry had been working for two years as a staff photographer at a suburban Philadelphia newspaper when he decide to indulge his dream of travelling the subcontinent. “As a student I had travelled through Africa and Latin America and lived in Europe for a year and felt like it was time to go. I’d saved some money, so I bought a couple hundred rolls of film and headed off to India.’ He had only been in the country for about two weeks ‘in a place called Kodaikanal, in the south, I came down with amoebic dysentery, in addition to having to go through a series of anti-rabies injections because I’d been exposed to an infected dog. While I was recovering I started reading Theroux’s book about his four-month train ride across Asia.’ Five years later McCurry would undertake a similar journey, but he would record it in pictures.”

The Youth magazine article, small in print but large in significance, presents the ideals of KIS’s experiment in international understanding and multicultural living. It is an ongoing story as the school has grown and evolved with the changing times. For anyone interested in the future of the school, the article is certainly worth re-reading (sePDF link below). Lauren Stockbower, according to my research, has had a rewarding career in editorial and photographic work and currently works out of the Corcoran College of Art + Design in Washington DC. You can follow Steve’ McCurry’s ongoing work on his blog and website. It would be great if we could have them revisit the school and re-report on it 34 years later!

Youth Magazine (1978)

Written by ianlockwood

2014-08-02 at 6:27 am