Interview with Stephen Huyler
First Online: November 10, 2000
Vikas: Namaskar Steveji. How did you become interested in India?
Steveji: I've always had an interest in the diversity of mankind, and took to studies on India (B.S. Univ. of Denver, Ph.D. from the University of London's School of Oriental Studies). Two ladies, Kamaladevi Chattopadhyaya and Rukmini Devi Aundale acted as catalysts for me to study Indian art and culture and provided the early encouragement and support. Over years, my interest in India and her people has only increased.
Vikas: Other than Raghu Rai and very few other prominent photographers, it was always a westerner who has had to expose the wonders of India. Why do you think this is so?
Steveji: Possibly because the Indian photographers are so drenched in the Indian culture that they do not notice it. As a foreigner, I perhaps see India in an objective perspective.
Vikas: Your exhibition is being displayed in India to rave reviews and is about to arrive in the United States. Do you think learning about other religions and others' devotion will develop religious tolerance?
Steveji: I certainly hope so!
Steveji: From my experience with Indians, the most devout people are also the most tolerant of other faiths. I do not think the religious violence in India has to do with the devotions of Indian people, or the depth of their faith; it is the inevitable side-effect of mixing politics with religion.
Steveji: What I have seen throughout India and in even among
non-Indian religions (like the Christians in India) is that their devotion
comes from a sense of duty.
Steveji: Being traditional is absolutely not the opposite of being modern, and India is a great example of it. Most people do not see India as a modern nation, but in fact, it is a very modern country. I am not saying the traditions do not or should not change. They have and they will.
Most Indians I know in the United States visit temples and perform the
rituals, yet leading a very modern and western life.
Steveji: While I have formal education in cultural anthropology, I
also have an avid interest in photography. I am most excited by the
lifestyles of various cultures and consider myself an
inter-disciplinarian. After my first book (Village India, Abrahams) was
published, I decided to improve upon my photography and took some formal
training. I have been writing prose since my younger days. I also read a
lot and have a nice collection of my own.
Steveji: Oh. There are so many of them and since they are real
people in their natural habitat, there also are fascinating stories behind
Steveji: It is a non-visual project; I am writing a book involving
the mystique of Shakti.
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