A Kiwi photographer who has produced, owned and managed several photography tours in New Zealand is coming up with an exhibition at Devonport, Auckland, showcasing the 'unseen' beauty of India captivated through his lens.

As a part of Auckland Festival of Photography, themed 'unseen' for 2020, photographer Robert Peper travelled to India several times in the last three years, most recently in 2019 when he visited the states of Rajasthan and Uttar Pradesh to observe and document the people and their everyday lives.

Robert is known for his street photography and in his concept of catching people in public places, during a moment of truth, spontaneously, revealing their character, personality, spirituality and inner self. He has presented his work at North Shore Library, NZ Herald, The English Observer, One2One in Ponsonby, Archies in Newmarket, Auckland Festival of Photography etc.

Robert adds that besides the popular tourist spots in the country, he was intrigued about life in the not so famous places, villages, and capture people doing mundane jobs, their struggles in their daily livelihoods and pride they take in honest earning a living a simple life.

In an interview with The Indian Weekender, Robert shares what fascinates most about India, its people and culture, how he compares and creates a contrast capturing the lives of Indians back thee and that of the Kiwi-Indian community in New Zealand. 

IWK: What made you choose India as your destination for photography?

Robert: As a part of my work as a photographer, I am always looking at capturing colourful, exotic and artistic images and had the privilege of photographing this intensely rich and vibrant culture engaged in both every day and festive life. I was lucky to be able to join National Geographic in India, where they are working on addressing people living a less fortunate life at local villages; this gave me an excellent opportunity to get away from the tourist spots and see the real India.

IWK: Can you briefly mention about the 'Unseen' theme of Auckland Festival of Photography?

Robert: My aim always is to bring to the surface the often invisible and therefore unseen identity of people in their participation in local and far-away cultures. In this exhibition, I am aiming to showcase the culture of the Indian people in both India and New Zealand, presenting their richness, place, participation and contribution in both countries.

I was fortunate that the Auckland Festival of Photography had the "Unseen" theme this year, which fitted very well with the exhibition I plan to present.

IWK: What fascinated you about the lives of Indians here and the ones living in India- what kind of contrast can be seen in your body of work?

Robert: I found that Indian life in India was quite amazing, going away from the big cities the people I met were extremely friendly, and they mostly loved me taking their images. It was important for me trying to capture their inner spirit on the outside, and I was definitely able to accomplish this as can be seen from my images at the exhibition.

However, I also saw a lot of poverty and joining National Geographic gave me the opportunity to look behind the smiling faces I always met along my journeys. Meeting Indian people here in New Zealand, I often but not always, found the same happiness with me taking their shots.

I also noticed poverty here and people working extremely hard to make a living, but at the same time, I did see proud people, who were very happy making a living here in New Zealand and feeling appreciated and accepted in this new society they joined.

In this project, I have aimed to present a greater understanding and respect for the Indian population in New Zealand. I have realised that this project is a journey and has not finished yet. In fact, I feel I have only opened up a small lid of a view of the Indian society, for which I am happy to pursue this for a while yet.

IWK: What can people expect to see at your exhibition?

Robert: A combination of images of Indian life both here and in India, presented in framed prints on famous German Hanhnemühle paper with anti-reflective glass together with a video presentation on an iMac.

IWK: How were your travel experiences in India?

Robert: I mostly travelled to Rajasthan and Uttar-Pradesh, primarily for the exiting photography opportunities available of both people and beautiful buildings. This year, I planned to go back again, in this case to Kerala, but this had to postpone due to the Coronavirus. I loved the selection of food presented in India, and even though I was a vegetarian during my travels, I very much enjoyed the variety of spices being used to prepare the meals.

About the Exhibition:

The Auckland Festival of Photography is an annual Auckland-wide photography event showcasing contemporary art and cultural events, presenting the varied cultural diversity that can be found in the Auckland region and offers many local and also international photographers at the many Auckland galleries, cafes and open spaces.

Robert's exhibition 'A Celebration of Life- Surfacing the Unseen' will be open to the public for three weeks from July 15 to August 3 at the Depot Artspace in Devonport.