I went to India in October of 2012 on a Fulbright scholarship to photograph the northern hill stations of India, from Darjeeling to Dalhousie all of which lay claim to the landscape of "The Switzerland of India".
I am interested in the cultural and pictorial significance of a tourist visiting one place for the vista while imagining another far away landscape. Because of the rise of the Indian middle class, explosion of the domestic tourist industry, and the lore and lure of Bollywood filmmaking’s connection to the Swiss landscape, this region has been re-imagined as a surrogate landscape first for contested regions of Northern India and now for Switzerland. These multiple Switzerlands, along with the cultural confluence of India and Switzerland, is creating a fascinating pictorial and conceptual space, where an imitation of an imitation has been constructed.
As cultural desires and physical landscapes begin to overlap, a unique cultural and pictorial problem arises. More and more, tourists might engage a landscape by witnessing a physical place (the hill stations of Northern India) but viewing a conceptual space (Switzerland).
After my solo six-month long honeymoon chasing every place that uses the sobriquet, “the Switzerland of India”, my work evolved into being about the spaces between reality and fantasy and the idea of a landscape; what draws you to a place initially and what happens when you reach that place. I became more interested in how the idea of a landscape is constructed and then how the mountains themselves were constructed through tunnels, roadwork and bridge building. The mountains became a backdrop to all of these other stories: stories of honeymooners, weddings, vernacular photography, hotel owners, taxi drivers, landslides, Bollywood cinema, travel, magic, snow and fires at the daybreak of the Indian middle class tourist industry.
Christine Rogers, 2012-2013
I would like to again thank Fulbright, USIEF and 1 Shanthi Road for all of the support in making this possible.