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A Fantastic State of Ruin: The Painted Towns of Rajasthan (ORO EDITIONS) Hardcover – October 15, 2018

5.0 out of 5 stars 1 rating

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Editorial Reviews


"Here is a rare and original testimony to a fascinating world that few of us know anything about.  David Zurick has captured the soul of a place.  A very patient and very loving look at a community that played an important role in India's culture and history."  - Eric Valli, Academy Award nominated filmmaker, author of Caravans of the Himalaya.

"This study set in the communities of Shekhawati reveals a rich immediacy of color, place, and the lived experience.  We are invited to participate in visual poetry."  - Alan Marcus, filmmaker, professor of film and visual culture, King's College, University of Aberdeen.

"A wonderful volume of photographs of Rajasthan, from desert ruins to stunning portraits of people. David Zurick has managed not just to capture the physical features of his subjects, animate or otherwise, but their inner lives as well. This book had a personal connection for me, reminding me of a world I had left behind physically, perhaps, but was still there in my subconscious to be reawakened. Magnificent." - John Butler, Asian Review of Books

"There is something at once melancholy and celebratory about David Zurick's wonderfully wistful A Fantastic State of Ruin. This stunning collection of photographs of desert, painted walls, and moldering mansions, among other marvels, forms a meditation on degeneration and persistence.  Exquisitely painted murals are splendidly rendered. Once sumptuous havelis seem haunted by ghosts.  His portraits of the inhabitants of the desert towns - cameleers, bangle sellers, snake charmers, gypsies, tailors, women, and children - are no less beautiful and moving.  There are echoes of poetry and music."  - Lee Siegel, New York Times Notable Author of the Year of Love in a Dead Language.

"An absorbing visual narrative.  Immersing oneself in these fascinating images is the next best thing to being there."  Ken Rodgers, Kyoto Journal

"In this book David Zurick does what I wish more photographers would do - he describes how, and into what mood, he was approaching what he came to photograph. What I like most about A Fantastic State of Ruin is the meditative calm it radiates. A superb book. An invitation to visualize timelessness."  Hans Durrer, F Stop Magazine.

About the Author

David Zurick received his PhD in Geography from the University of Hawaii and the East-West Center, Honolulu. He writes and photographs extensively about Asia and the Pacific, with a special focus on the contemporary cultural landscape.  His awards include the National Outdoor Book Award, the Nautilus Silver Award, Banff Mountain Festival Book Award Finalist (twice), the Mt. Everest Award, and Kentucky Arts Council Visual Artist Fellowship Award (twice).  He travels widely from his home in the  Kentucky hills.

Product details

  • Publisher : GOFF BOOKS (October 15, 2018)
  • Language : English
  • Hardcover : 176 pages
  • ISBN-10 : 1940743400
  • ISBN-13 : 978-1940743400
  • Item Weight : 2.8 pounds
  • Customer Reviews:
    5.0 out of 5 stars 1 rating

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Top review from the United States

Reviewed in the United States on November 14, 2018
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5.0 out of 5 stars The painted towns of Shekhawati, Eastern RAJASTHAN
By TripFiction on November 14, 2018
Collated iconic photographs of India’s rich visual culture - the painted towns of Shekhawati, Eastern Rajasthan, located in the triangle of Delhi, Jaipur and Bikaner.

What a beautifully produced coffee table book, with sumptuous photos of India’s rich visual culture in one small area of Rajasthan. Shekhawati (meaning Garden of Shekha) comprises several areas bordered by desert and mountains, formerly a rich trading route in the 18th and 19th Centuries. It is the decrepit nature of the buildings and their frescoes that inspires and saddens in equal measure. The art is crumbling, there for all to see and admire, yet belonging to no-one and therefore no-one really takes responsibility for the upkeep; these wonderful frescoes continue to erode and crumble.

The paintings are a clear legacy of a once wealthy area populated with mansions and havelis. Traders had to pass through and taxes were levied to sustain these encampments. Now, although there are road and rail links, the purpose of these small towns has long since vanished and the locals are eking out a much poorer living.

The photographer and chronicler of A Fantastic State of Ruin captures the fading glory of many of these wall paintings and the people he encountered. The images are full of exquisite detail and colour. My only thought is the writing is quite light and tiny, and therefore sometimes hard to read with the glossy finish of the paper; there are innumerable blank pages throughout the book which seems just a little odd. But those issues notwithstanding, this is a terrific tome that will inspire you to visit this little known area of India.

You can also find out more about the conservation work going on through the Shekhawati Project and more in the Afterword.

This is a beautiful gift for someone who loves art and India. Just a stunning collation of photos.
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