There is haze on the horizon. Dry sand dust swirling up. The burning heat takes away your breath. The ground underneath your feet, a dry salt lake. There’s nothing there. Nothing except drought. Nothing except never-ending desert. Wasteland. We find ourselves in the nowhere, in the northwest of Nevada. No one would ever come to this place voluntarily. That’s what one would think. As a matter of fact, exactly that is tradition for some and a dream for many. On the last Monday of August, from one day to the other, this monotone landscape changes completely into something else. About 70 000 people build a city of tents, aligned in a circle. There, united in the desert, every year one of the biggest and craziest parties of the world takes place. Burning Man. An alternative festival for artists, idealists, hipsters, eccentrics, party lions and rubbernecks.
Through the beauty of portraiture, photographer Justin Hession hopes to spotlight the human ambiguities and complexities of the Kumbh and bring attention to the incredible spiritual dedication of the Indian people.
Having spent two weeks in a makeshift tent studio at the 2013 Kumbh Mela, Justin captured some extraordinary portraits of the pilgrims who are drawn to the Ganges every 12 years in the largest human gathering on Earth. He decided to created studio style portraits against a plain black backdrop to strip away the Kumbh’s colourful, intense circus like environment to focus and highlight the gracefulness of the individual pilgrim. The Kumbh Mela project contains over a 100 portraits of ‘the real pilgrims of the Kumbh’ who are drawn to the unimaginably large, loud and chaotic event in search of a pure life and seeks to show the personal dignity of the great spiritual event of the Kumbh Mela.