I went to India in October of 2012 as a Fulbright scholar to photograph the northern hill stations of India, from Darjeeling to Dalhousie all of which lay claim to the landscape of "The Switzerland of India".
As a photographer and video artist, I am interested in the cultural and pictorial significance of a tourist visiting one place for the vista while imagining another far away landscape. What has happened in many of the northern hill stations of India is fascinating. Because of the rise of the Indian middle class, explosion of the domestic tourist industry, and the lore and lure of Bollywood filmmaking’s connection to the Swiss landscape, this region has been re-imagined as a surrogate landscape first for contested regions of Northern India and now for Switzerland. These multiple Switzerlands, along with the cultural confluence of India and Switzerland, is creating a fascinating pictorial and conceptual space, where an imitation of an imitation has been constructed.
This notion of constructing a photograph to reinforce desires is still present in the conceptual vocabulary of contemporary photographers, but, in practice, this construction exists not simply to reinforce desires but also to highlight the nature of desire itself. As cultural desires and physical landscapes begin to overlap, a unique cultural and pictorial problem arises. More and more, tourists might engage the landscape by witnessing a physical place (the hill stations of Northern India) but viewing a conceptual space (Switzerland).
After my solo six-month long honeymoon chasing every place that uses the sobriquet, “the Switzerland of India”, my work evolved into being about the spaces between reality and fantasy and the idea of a landscape; what draws you to a place initially and what happens when you reach that place. I became more interested in how the idea of a landscape is constructed and then how the mountains themselves were constructed through tunnels, roadwork and bridge building. The mountains became a backdrop to all of these other stories: stories of honeymooners, weddings, vernacular photography, hotel owners, taxi drivers, landslides, Bollywood cinema, travel, magic, snow and fires at the daybreak of the Indian middle class tourist industry.
My work is an ongoing investigation of how inherited visual forms, whether from vernacular images, mass media, or art history, structure and form our ideas of family, religion, politics, road trips, winning, losing, and musicals. These interests are often a starting point for installations of new photographs and videos that are generally performative in nature and create a personal visual history that modifies the function of these images or renders them dysfunctional.
Christine Rogers is an artist from Nashville, Tennessee. She received her BA in Anthropology from Oberlin College in 2004 and her MFA in Studio Art from Tufts University in 2008. She has exhibited widely across the United States and was in a two person show at the Museum of Contemporary Art in Santiago, Chile in the fall of 2012. She was a Visiting Lecturer of Photography at Wellesley College outside of Boston, Massachusetts from 2008-2011 and has lectured on her work across at various institutions such as Vanderbilt University, Watkins College and Cooper Union in New York. From 2012-2103 Christine was a Fulbright-Nehru Senior Research Scholar completing research for her project, "Photographing Imagined Landscapes: The Switzerland of India" and her first solo show in India was in the spring of 2013 at 1 Shanthi Road Gallery in Bangalore, Karnataka. Her work has been written about in Time Out Bengaluru, The Bangalore Mirror, The Hindu, New Landscape Photography, The Tennessean, the Nashville Scene, Hyperallergic and Dazed Digital. She is an Assistant Professor of Photography at Watkins College in Nashville, TN.
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