Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty (2014)

For his most recent work Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty, Max Pinckers (born in Belgium in 1988, but raised in Asia), travelled to India for four months, accompanied by his partner Victoria Gonzalez-Figueras. There he has attempted to document, capture, stage and bring to life various specific aspects of love and marriage. Searching through newspapers and magazines, watching films and roaming through cities, he has been looking for subjects that suited his theme, such as couples on their honeymoon at the foot of the Himalayas, men on white horses, Victoria’s (carts on which newlyweds strut around), photo studios where couples have their portraits taken, strange decors for marriage ceremonies, a stranded photograph of a married couple (which is offered to a river, lake or sea after their death), a set of discarded photos from a studio next to the Taj Mahal and many other things. He also made pictures of ‘lovebirds’ (young lovers on the run from their disapproving families due to caste or religious differences) and the Love Commandos (an organization that protects and supports these young runaway couples and helps them get married and start anew).

We see beautiful images of people; some staged, some not. The shelter of the Love Commandos, for instance, which we recognize by the blue walled spaces: a confined space that is an ode to freedom. Often the beautifully lit photographs contain an extra, unneeded reflecting flash, as a footnote, a signature, but also as a spatial photographic intervention. Despite his thorough documentation (that largely exists out of photos, be it found or made by amateurs, such as in the series Lotus), Pinckers searches for images that are devoid of recognizable elements. It is not the folklore that interests him, nor the differences between our cultures, but this universal search for the perfect image, for our understanding of beauty and kitsch, for our constricted forms of style, and for the emotions that all these images evoke nonetheless. Young couples that dream of a Bollywood elopement or a tradition that is degenerating into cookie- cutter romances... The way life and death disguise and reveal themselves in our relationship with images.

Pinckers states that he had heard of the Love Commandos and approached them to make a story. They are based in New Delhi and they are a small team of four men. They have one main headquarters, a website and a telephone hotline. They provide assistance to couples who are in love but cannot be together due to family opposition – mainly due to caste or religious issues. In India, most people still have arranged marriages, but young people do fall in love and run away to be together. The main function of the Love Commandos is to allow people to do this in safety and in accordance with the laws of India and to prevent honor killings happening to the young couples. So they take in young couples and provide protection, sometimes they send in people to rescue couples at risk. They have at least eight different shelters in New Delhi, amongst many more across the country. They also claim to have 50,000 volunteers, many of whom have been helped by the Love Commandos, who give advice and help to people in their area. It’s a traditional documentary subject in other words, featuring people who face a very real danger of violence or murder. There are an estimated 1,000 honor killings in India every year, but it’s also a problem that extends across much of Asia, Africa, Europe and the UK.

Hans Theys, Photographs as Poems, 2014.

Will They Sing Like Raindrops or Leave Me Thirsty was commissioned by EUROPALIA INTERNATIONAL ARTS FESTIVAL for the Indomania exhibition at Bozar - Centre of Fine Arts, Brussels, 2013.

Hans Theys, Montagne de Miel, February 2014
Francesca Orsi, Yet Magazine, January 2015
Paula Kupfer, Aperture Foundation NY website, New York, March 2014
Kurt Snoekx, Wunderkammer, Agenda Magazine, Belgium, May 2014
Colin Pantall, British Journal of Photography magazine, UK, October 2013