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"What a beautiful and moving book this is! In it, David Scheinbaum gives us vivid, intimate, stirring, contemplative photographs and personal reflections of life in Varanasi. He brings us to this incomparable, special place where the expansive range of human experience finds expression. We see why he, when in Varanasi, feels a pervasive inner peace within the complexities of life and death. Diana Eck's informed and illuminating vignettes invite us into a sense of the history and inner meaning of this holiest of places. And BJ Miller thoughtfully reflects on the mystery of death, a mystery that life in the City of Light itself so fully and prayerfully embodies. Varanasi is indeed a remarkable book."
—William K. Mahoney, Charles A. Dana Professor of Religious Studies, Davidson College, and author of The Artful Universe: An Introduction to the Vedic Religious Imagination

"Varanasi is visually compelling and beautifully written. David Scheinbaum's delivery is elegantly complete with his photographs standing alone in their intimacy with the subject of prayer. His annotated visual notes as well as BJ Miller's essay and Diana Eck's reflections give an even greater appreciation of the material in this superb book. Varanasi is an extraordinary achievement."
—Martha A. Strawn, Professor of Art Emerita, University of North Carolina, Charlotte, and author of Across the Threshold of India: Art, Women, and Religion

"David Scheinbaum's remarkable photographs of Varanasi bring us to a place that is simultaneously eternal and contemporary. They show people that, at times, seem as familiar as those we might encounter on a morning walk or commute, as if humanity is peering back. But this is Varanasi, where the returned gaze is especially raw and wondrous, challenging and tender. Scheinbaum presents us with kaleidoscopic views of extraordinary contrasts: life and death, fire and water, the sublime and the ordinary. The dreamlike pictures seem almost otherworldly. In Varanasi, Scheinbaum has captured the pulse of India's holy city. I am grateful for his gift and find his book profoundly moving."
—Christopher Jordan, Associate Professor of Photography and Digital Studies, University of Alabama, and author of Nowhere in Place

"The book is centered mainly around the ghāts (riverside) of the Ganges, considered holy by the Hindus. Scheinbaum has an eye for details and strives to present sacred rituals without a colored Western lens. From the image of a sadhu meditating on the ghāts to pilgrims performing suryanamaskār (saluting the Sun), he has meticulously portrayed the essence of the spirituality surrounding the river. He takes us into the narrow alleys to show the locals' lifestyle alongside the revered wandering cows.
The photographs of women performing the rituals of Chhath Puja are a major highlight in the book. The vibrant colors of the festival are enhanced by the sindoor (vermilion) on the forehead of women who stand mid-waist in the river. The significance of the river is implied in every scene.
In conclusion, the image of the tilted Ratneshwar Mahadev temple gives a mystic touch to the book. It is a Hindu temple dedicated to Shiva that is submerged underwater throughout the year but stands unharmed. The last picture is that of a statue at Pisāch Mochan, where people perform rituals to appease the souls of their dead ancestors. The cycle of life and death continues, and so does the relationship between the living and the dead. In this book, Scheinbaum has captured the rich civilization that emerged on the banks of the Ganges. Anyone interested in Varanasi or Indian culture in general should consider consulting this book. It will serve as an introduction to the city, its culture, and the scenic beauty of the ghāts."
—Ragini Mishra Banaras, Hindu University, for the Journal of Folklore (read the full review here)

Interview with author and review of the book (Lenscratch 2023)


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