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On the wedding trail

 A potpourri of cultures that our society is, one grows up knowing and learning about many more traditions than just his/her own. But so deep they are that it’s difficult to ever absorb them wholly. This is the thought that underscores photographer Sephi Bergerson’s forthcoming work on Indian weddings, “Behind the Indian Veil: A journey through weddings in India” a coffee table book on wedding traditions in our country. “I have seen a lot of Indian weddingsand I can say that no two weddings are similar. I tried to understand the commonalities to define Indian wedding and I realised there’s no way to define it. I couldn’t cover everything nor did I try to attempt it. A book in that sense is only a starting point of a conversation. You see a picture and you are reminded of a wedding, a relative, a ceremony…,” says Sephi, an Israeli documentary photographer who has been living in India since 2002.
picture: bridal gowns

With an award winning book by his side, “Street Food of India”, Sephi was simultaneously trailing the wedding culture here and eventually started to work as a wedding photographer. “For me it was a visual journey. And it is not about décor, the venue, the palace or the designer outfits etc., it’s about slowly fading traditions. With a lot of intercultural influences entering the realm, it has become difficult to find really traditional weddings. I had to wait for more than a year to find a traditional Kashmiri Pandit wedding,” explains the lensman who has included photographs from 16 weddings in the book. In a bid to avoid making a photo album, Sephi hasn’t taken more than six pictures from a wedding. “There are pictures from other weddings like that of a fire, a ritual etc. Also I couldn’t make a book of 500 pages which people wouldn’t be able to go through.” A foreigner who didn’t understand the language, the differences between different weddings, how did he manage to zero in on the variety of weddings like that of Tamil Brahmin, Ladakhi Buddhist, Punjabi, Bengali, Rajput, etc. for his book? “Through friends and at times they happened by pure chance. Like I was at a wedding in Madurai and a guest asked me if I have ever been to a Syrian Christian wedding. I went there along with the same guest who was attending that wedding too. It was an incredible wedding. Actually all weddings in India are incredible. Ladakhi Buddhist wedding is a social affair and not a religious one. The boy and the girl were living in for many years and had kids and one day someone just asked them for a party…Even the lavish Punjabi weddings are incredible. The guys know how to party.”

Sephi is taking an important step with this work by deciding to self-publish it. Complete liberty to present one’s work, his ongoing court case against Roli Books on the issue of copyright and the changed world of publishing are a few reasons that led him to walk this path. “It happens a lot, specifically with coffee table books that publishers require you to get a certain amount of money. If I have to bring a sponsor; if I go around asking for money then why don’t I publish it myself and the way I want it.”

So to raise the funds, Sephi has put in plan A of financing his book through crowd-funding. A crowd-funding platform has been created — Behind the Indian Veil on Indiegogo (igg.me/at/behind-the-indian-veil ) where you support the project by buying a book even before it is ready. There exist different versions of the book — PDF, signed special collectors edition, limited case-bound special edition with a special invitation to the book launch etc. that can be booked with the estimated delivery in May 2015.

“This campaign will run until October 12 but I have anticipated that it may not get a good response. Most of my followers are Indians who are still vary of paying online, net banking, paying in dollars. So there is a back-up plan of getting corporate sponsorships and if that also doesn’t work out, I will have to publish it myself. You know there are many ways to make a book. I hoped that the community of photographers would understand that what I am doing is empowering them but it didn’t work out that way.”

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