Human/Nature

by Juhi Saklani

Concept:

Ecological thinkers point out that the very fact that we coined a word for ‘nature’ indicates that human beings do not feel they are part of nature. We assume that nature is something outside of us, to be controlled, exploited, or appreciated, but all for ‘our’ benefit.

But human life and culture are so profoundly interrelated with nature as to be inseparable. When we think of ‘human’ as separate from ‘nature’, we do great violence to ourselves, our lives, and our planet — as can be seen in the dramatic climate change, deforestation, water crisis, air pollution, and extinction of species all around us.

This project was put together against a background of regular headlines about trees being felled for buildings, roads, river interlinking, smart city projects, parking, and more. But in these images, trees grow out of walls, enter buildings, inhabit books, take over maps… and together, the human and the natural make a whole.

The assumption about humanity being separate from nature gives rise to absurd dichotomies like the concept of ‘development vs environment’, as if people do not equally need economic security as well as a healthy and happy life. A special section on the ‘redevelopment’ of Delhi’s colonies — under which about 15,000 trees were going to be felled in Sarojini Nagar and Netaji Nagar — addresses this absurdity. The images in this section are collages, in which the threatened trees and semi-demolished houses of these colonies are still trying to co-exist.

About Juhi:

Juhi is a Delhi-based writer and a self-taught photographer.

She was a travel writer and editor with Outlook Traveller magazine and guidebooks for nearly a decade, and authored more than 40 articles on Indian travel destinations, heritage, culture, and wildlife. She started making images in her role as a travel writer. Her photographs were regularly published in Outlook Traveller magazine and books between 2008-2012.

In April-June 2016, her photographs of Delhi’s gardeners (titled: “चले भी आओ कि गुलशन का कारोबार चले”) were shown as part of The Garden Underground exhibition in Jorbagh Metro Station, under the aegis of India Habitat Centre’s Art in the Metro programme.

A keen follower of ecological issues and philosophies, for the last two years, Juhi has been photographing trees in Delhi and different parts of India.

As a writer, she has published in The Hindu Sunday Supplement, Scroll, The Wire, and Outlook.com, and has authored the books Gandhi (Dorling Kindersley); Delhi by Metro (Times Books); Filmy Escapes (Lonely Planet India); and co-authored Bollywood (Dorling Kindersley).