The Darkroom Gallery


Sâdhus, the holy men of Hinduism


Photographs of Olivier Remualdo


From February 2 to April 30, 2015



Nowadays, as the sanity of the Western system is being questioned, spirituality holds a greater place thane ever in our society. And within the various perspectives, many find Indian wisdom particularly attractive. Philosophical Hindu texts such as the Baghavad Gita, contemporary thinkers such as Krishnamurti or Swami Prajnanpad, are readily displayed in commercial bookshops. And those who set off to discover the sub-continent often find their views somewhat altered upon their return.


For years, through photographic projects, I have explored the spiritual and mythological dimensions of India, always favouring the human connection over technique. This collection of portraits was born from the desire to share my encounters with these individuals who have chosen a radically different way of life, one that appears in stark opposition to the mainstream. Without idealising them, and with a deep respect for their quest for wisdom, I spent time with them, striving to capture the essence of that wisdom.


Although few works have been dedicated to them to date, those that do exist almost systematically represent these men and women in a daily  context or in ritual, as the oft-photographed icons of contemporary and touristic India. I chose a different path: by directing my work toward studio logic, the subject’s context is placed off-camera. Stripped of its “picturesque” aspect, the singularity of each individual is brought forward, focusing the attention to their gaze. Viewers thus find themselves face to face with the subject – and, if they are so inclined, with themselves…


André Malraux predicted the return of religious sentiment. He stated that ‘the task of the 21st  century will be to reintroduce Gods into man’. Is it, therefore, so unreasonable to interpret this renewed interest in spirituality as a growth in awareness? Instead of choosing to conform to tradition, rather than following inherited religious dogmas, these individuals search for the divine in themselves. There are innumerable paths, and the scope of inspiration provides a mirror to the world in which we live.


The photographs you are about to discover in this book were shot during three trips to India, between 2009 and 2011: in the holy cities of Varanasi and Haridwar, at the heart of the Maha Kumbh Mela, the biggest religious gathering in the world, and finally, on the sacred island of Omkareshwar. Each picture was taken at our initial meeting point, where I used light and a handcrafted photo studio made on site.


I took pictures of more than 110 Sâdhus and encountered many more. I also interviewed them about their lives, as I was not interested in only cataloguing faces. My broken Hindi enabled me to gather information such as their name, their age, their lineage and school of thought… When I had the opportunity to do so, I asked what they wished to tell people in the Western world, if they had a message to share…











Olivier Remualdo, artist photographer


Self-taught photographer born in Nice (France), Olivier Remualdo is passionate with Indian culture. After commercial studies in Cannes and plastic arts in the university Paris VIII, he has started travelling in Europe, America and Asia. Olivier visited India for the first time in 2004: an absolute revelation for him. Since then, he keeps on going back there.

            In april 2009, he began the project Sadhus: First in Varanasi, then in Haridwar in 2010 during the largest religious gathering in the world (Maha Kumbh Mellah) and in February 2011 in  the Holy city of Omkareshwar. During these three journeys over 110 Sadhus were photographed and interviewed.

In 2011, he made the traditional pilgrimage “the Yatra”, walking in the Himalaya more than 600 kilometers alone or with sadhus to the source of the Ganges. 

            He was awarded the "Lucien Clergue" Prize within the framework of the  12th Sept'Off in 2011 in Nice and was the "Grand Prize Winner" of the "Best Blurb Books Contest" in 2009 Travel category, 1800 participants in San Francisco. This project has been also the “visual correspondence laureate” of the “Compétences photo magazine”, finalist of the “Samsung launching people” in 2013 and selected as “Coup de Coeur” in the “Inrocks” magazine.