If you've ever bought a book and been disappointed that there weren't enough pictures, then the Taschen `Icons' range is probably just what you want. Indian Style is edited by Angelika Taschen with photographs by Deidi von Schaewen. Indian Style doesn't preach or teach or tell you what to think - instead it places beautiful coloured images in front of you and lets the reader - or rather viewer - make of them what they choose to. In contrast with other similar books, I also like that all the photographs are from just one photographer because it means the images knit together more coherently than in a multi-photographer book.
The book splits the photographs into four chapters. Angelika Taschen gets a page or two to introduce the book with a preface entitled "Why is India so beautiful?" which is one of those questions that anyone who's spent time in the country will recognise as a simple and very searching question. She offers a few suggestions but it's up to you to decide whether she answers the question - in any of the three languages in which the text is offered. With Angelika's musings out of the way we're straight into the wonderful ingulgence of looking at pictures.
The photographic chapters are Landscapes, Houses, Interiors and Details. In the first three photo chapters all of the pictures are double spread shots so you do get a good sized picture. Only in the final chapter on `details' are some of the pictures offered in portrait form but even then they resist the temptation to put two different pictures on each view, opting instead for a blank coloured page to offset the main image.
The book does a lovely job of mixing old and new, poor and wealthy, exclusive up-market and scruffy unpretentious places - though it would be true to say that it's always going to be easier to see beauty in the grand houses than in the slums so that balance is rather more towards the fancier places. We see a mix of historic periods from Moghul architecture, through very `day of the Raj' interiors which offer chintz and teddy bears on European sofas, on to pared down and structured Art Deco, through to modern. Many of the images leave us to think about the type of people who could have chosen to live surrounded by such strange furniture or paintings and to wonder at the decay and faded grandeur of some of the old palaces.
You won't find explanations of the pictures - just a few words of identification. If you find yourself wanting to know more, then you'll have to go off and do your own research. You won't LEARN a lot but this book isn't trying to teach you - just to inspire and delight you visually. What you choose to do with that inspiration - if anything - is entirely up to you. This is one of the nice things about the Icons series - if you want to just look, coo over the nice pictures and then put Indian Style back on the shelf, that's fine. If you want to use it to inspire your redecoration of your house - feel free. Or you could see a building that fascinates you and then go online to find out more about it, maybe even build your itinerary for your next holiday around going to see for yourself. Taschen won't tell you how to use their book - it's your choice. The freedom is perhaps part of their `democratisation' of art. I find it very refreshing when too many art books try to tell us what to feel and how to respond.
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I have always been fascinated by all things Indian and was pretty impressed by this book. The glossy pictures are of a very high standard and range from natural shots of local people, to stunning scenes of the countryside and buildings, to beautiful photos of interiors. These interior pictures are the best part of the book in my opinion, they are a kaleidoscope of colours and show both modest and affluent homes, all of which are so interesting. I would recommend this book to anyone that is interested in architecture, interior designs or India itself. It's a real insight!
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