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  • Writer's pictureMadlén Hjelmroth

The Indian Masala Experience

A few years ago, I received a DM on Instagram from a young Indian guy. He was questioning a photo I had shared. According to him, it showed one of the not-so-flattering sides of India. “Why don’t you show the clean and beautiful India?” he asked.

The last time I visited Bali, I met an 18-year-old woman from England. This was her first trip, and after spending 12 hours on the island, she felt utterly disappointed. The reason was that nothing she had seen that far correlated with the image she had seen of Bali online.

A couple of weeks ago, I was in Varanasi, an ancient and essential city in Hinduism. I got some beautiful shots, but I also documented some ceremonies involving a person’s passing, including a cremation. Someone asked me: “Why do you take photos of that?”

These three examples made me think about my stance on photography when travelling. As a photographer and human being, can I turn a blind eye to what I’m witnessing just because it’s not beautiful? Is the way travelling being portrayed by influencers the only way to show the world? Do we need a more nuanced image of what the world looks like?

The world and life are a complex mix of everything. What strikes me most about India is the fact that it is all visible at the same time. The masala way. Hot and spicy. Sometimes too spicy.

My time in India has been filled with joy, hardship, beauty, obstacles, impoliteness and kindness, old and new. I can only describe my love for India as The Masala Experience.


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