A shot of Spiti during my first visit to the area in 2013. If you are in Japan, Hong Kong, China, Indonesia or any of these Asian countries, do grab a copy of this months Action Asia Magazine for a double spread of this picture. #spiti #himachal #lifeinspiti #walk #mountains #hills #landscape #kee #monastery #tearsheet #himalayas #actionasia
Temperatures in the cold desert of Spiti Valley plummet to minus 30 degrees in the winter. Having lived out a winter documenting the remote region, photographer Himanshu Khagta is quite unperturbed when I ask him about the challenges. He gives me the equivalent of a shrug of the shoulders – “It was more like home to me – I got used to the place.”
Cab drivers and a #Mishmi man having food at sixty five after #Mayodia Pass. The only stop between #Roing and #Hunli in the dense forest of #Arunachal Pradesh. Rice with dal or meat is the most popular food people have here here. They also sell maggie noodles and tea. #traveldeeper #northeastindia #india #life #place #journey #resturant #food #bbctravel @natgeotravellerindia @lonelyplanettraveller
The resilience has taken Khagta across the country on some exhilarating adventures. He has travelled across rural India documenting the Great Wash Yatra, covered over 3000 kilometers across Ladakh on a farm tractor, documented the longest tractor expedition between Chandigarh and Kanyakumari, and travelled to remote villages of North Eastern India on photography assignments. It would be useful to keep in mind that this list is not exhaustive.
Having travelled on some of the most treacherous mountain roads (the YouTube channel that documents his drives is called Himalayan Roads), Khagta lists his 2013 trip to North Eastern India as his most exciting one. Along with the New York Times correspondent, Max Bearak, Khagta went on a month-long journey across Arunachal Pradesh, Assam and Meghalaya documenting the cultural and environmental transformation in the region. Bearak’s article, Finding Nino, explains why Khagta considers this particular adventure to be his most exciting one.
“We were travelling from a journalistic perspective and explored some very remote areas,” he says.
Khagta’s journey as a photographer began with an interest in clicking pictures on his phone and sharing them with his friends while he grew up in Shimla. The encouragement to take photography up as a profession came when magazines requested to publish his pictures. He picked up the technical aspects through the internet and has had no professional training in photography. “Since everything is constantly changing, I keep learning even today. The internet and YouTube are my teachers,” he says.
The progression from photography to adventure and a combination of the two was a natural one for him. “Some great photographer said that to take great pictures, you have to stand in front of beautiful things. I began to travel extensively to take pictures,” he says. The fact that a few of his friends were mountain climbers got him started on treks.
Khagta’s first trip to Spiti was in 2010 when he fell in love with the vastness of the region, its clear blue skies and hospitable people. He returned a few times before he spent a winter there in 2014 at the behest of a friend from the region. Despite having packed his bags for two months, he stayed for six. “Every single day was fun,” he says. He learnt how to ski on Spiti’s mountain slopes with two friends who knew the basics. “We used to have regular practice sessions early in the morning when the ice is frozen and easy to ski on the top layer. It was really beautiful.”
In late February as the snow starts melting during the day time, the top layer freezes at night making it hard enough to walk on. We are going towards the motorable road that you can see covered with snow on the top left. Going to Kaza on this route is only possible before 11am. After that it becomes extremely dangerous because of the amount of avalanche zones. This walk of 12km is the only way for the people of Langza village at an altitude of 4300m to reach Kaza – the headquarter of Spiti. Picture for my long term project @lifeinspiti #India #himachal #spiti #lifeinspiti #himalayas #mountains #travel #huffpostgram #myfeatureshoot #wanderlust #exploretocreate #justgoshoot #worldtravelbook #passionpassport #watchthisinstagood #igers #yourshot #reportagespotlight #peoplescreatives #indiaphotoproject
“Life was really simple and nice,” Khagta says. “The food in the valley is bland, but we loved tasty food. We would begin planning ahead for dinner right after lunch and cook something new everyday. There was nothing else to do!” he laughs.
A girl walks from Kaza, through the only route available to reach her village in Komic. During the months of February, when the motor-able roads get covered with snow and avalanches, this is the only route people take to reach the higher villages. In early spring, they make sure to start early when the snow is frozen hard and when walking on it is easy. As the sun goes up, the snow starts melting and you start getting buried in 3-4 ft of snow. #spiti #kaza #komic #hike #life #lifeinspiti #people #himalayas #mountains #hills #snow #india #himachal @natgeocreative @lifeinspiti @panospictures
Spiti has very limited access to technology. The only network available is BSNL and internet connections are nearly impossible to obtain. “Life without technology wasn’t that tough,” says Khagta. “While I was there, there was no electricity for a month and a half. But I got used to it. We used to have access to satellite internet and work on dial up speeds to send emails.” The key to living a content life in Spiti is cutting down on the luxuries we tend to seek. “It’s important to be comfortable with anything – I found that I could pitch a tent and stay anywhere. It didn’t matter much to me,” he says.
While his experiences in Spiti have culminated in a book and a website – Life in Spiti – Khagta has also actively been documenting Shimla, his hometown. Life in Shimla is an ongoing project that captures the life and culture of various villages in the district, the most recent one being Rohru, where Khagta is currently based out of.
This gentleman carved this statue of Lord Hanuman and did these intricate wood carvings on the temple. Shot with Panasonic Lumix GH5 #india #himachal #shimla #rohru #gwas #himalayas #mountains #portrait #people #hills #temple #carving #architecture #ancient #lumixgh5 #wherelumixgoes #lumixlounge @lumixusa
“The remote regions of Shimla have barely been documented,” he says. Is it difficult to find a story in your own backyard? “Since I grew up in Shimla, I’ve seen the place since childhood.
I clicked this so-called controversial picture in the year 2009 when I was looking for a better perspective of Shimla. The moment I uploaded this picture on Facebook, a sea of ignorance washed the comment section. Strangely from the people of Shimla, claiming that the mountains on the background were added later on photoshop. I was shocked first. Then felt proud later to have captured a different view that even Shimla people had never seen before. I love poking those people with this picture every now and then 😀 Just for fun. Does it look photoshopped? What do you think? Please Like and Comment and help spread the picture around Instagram. Available for licensing on @gettyimages #india #himachal #shimla #evening #mountains #city #town #himalayas #snow #likes4likes #follow4follow
Documenting it now means I’ll have to look at it from other perspectives. It’s not particularly difficult, just a little different,” says Khagta. Since he appreciates the weather in Shimla and the misty monsoons, he hasn’t moved to the city yet.
10.2013 – It was three years back when we decided to stay at Nako for a night before leaving for Spiti. We heard drums and music and people singing. We followed the sound and reached a small playground were the people of Nako were celebrating the festival of Phulech. The festival that happens all around Kinnaur after the harvest. The women were dancing happily and men were drinking their locally brewed liquor. #india #kinnaur #kinnaura #tribe #people #happy #celebration #phulech #himachal #nako #people #festival #himalayas #mountains #smile #dance #traditional #culture #khagta #himanshukhagta #hippieinhills
Being from the mountains put him at an advantage with regard to the work he did in Spiti. The culture and people are similar and it gets easier to adjust to sub zero temperatures, he admits. But did he ever feel like an intruder on photography assignments elsewhere in India, considering that some of his photographs are intimate portraits that reflect a region’s lifestyle and culture? That’s where his process comes into the picture. “You will always feel like an outsider. If somebody points a camera at your face, you may not like it. So, I make sure that I talk to the people I am photographing, I interact with them for a while and ensure that they are comfortable,” he says. He emphasises the need familiarise oneself with the region and its culture. Respecting individuals and their privacy is just as integral to the process as understanding the specificities of the place being documented.
When a viewer looks at his photograph, Khagta hopes that the person is able to see it exactly the way he envisioned it. The reaction he seeks to ellicit is the feeling he experienced at the moment he clicked the photograph. “I don’t mingle with the colours too much during post processing and I don’t use too many filters,” he says. Over time, he has observed that he can now visualise a picture and then map the best way to take it. “When I started out, it was trial and error. With practice, it’s easier for the photographer to know what kind of picture they want,” he says. While he uses a Canon 5D Mark II for stills, he also uses the camera on his phone a lot.
Khagta also enjoys the fact that sometimes places and people surprise the traveller. “Returning to Delhi from Nagaland was a shock because nobody honks in Nagaland and cars very rarely overtake each other. When you experience places for yourself, you realise that they are not as they have projected in the media,” he says.
Our car deboarding the boat that helped us cross a tributary of Lohit river in Assam on our way from #Roing to #Itanagar Old Photo from my archive. #assam #arunachal #transport #life #river #boat #car #tata #safari #people #India #travel #huffpostgram #myfeatureshoot #wanderlust #exploretocreate #justgoshoot #worldtravelbook #passionpassport #watchthisinstagood #igers #yourshot #reportagespotlight #peoplescreatives #indiaphotoproject