While our featured analogue-loving wanderer finds inspiration in Leipzig, the German city where he’s currently residing, a quick browse at his impressive pool of travel photos is enough to tell us that he was also immensely inspired by his thorough trip around India and Nepal. For 11 months, 22-year-old Martin Ruckert immersed himself in the wilderness of the two Asian destinations, enjoying the wonders of nature and occasionally traversing metropolises to document daily life and interesting people.
“I walked 3 months on a pilgrim route along a river in central India, did camel safari in the desert in Rajasthan, trekked in the Himalayan area on Indian side as well as on Nepali side and spent some time in the jungle in the North-Eastern states, which are still pretty unknown,” Martin shared to give us an idea on what went down during his trip. “Nothing was really planned, everything was more or less spontaneous.”
Read the rest of our interview with Martin below to find out more about many interesting details about his amazing trip, such as the first scenes that welcomed him, shooting a whopping 33 rolls of film, and the story behind one of his favorite people snapshots.
Can you tell us something about yourself and what you do? How long have you been shooting with film? Anything keeping you busy or inspired aside from film photography?
My name is Martin Ruckert. I’m 22 years old and based in Leipzig, Germany. I study Culture and Media Pedagogics specialization on photography and hope to do my Masters in Photography. I started shooting film around 5 years ago, right after high-school, and used mainly disposable cameras just for myself to document what was going on around me, but got fixed by the look of the photos and still stick with it. My inspiration comes a lot from the great city I live in, Leipzig, and from the people that live here. Due to my studies I also have a lot to do with filmmaking, which also has its impact on me.
We’d like to learn some basic facts about your trip to India and Nepal. When did you begin your journey and how long did you traverse the two countries? Which towns/cities did you visit? Was/were there any specific reason/s for deciding to make them your destinations?
My journey to India and Nepal started in January 2014 and came back Christmas the same year, so I spent around 11 months in the wild east. After 6 months in India I had to leave the country because of the visa, crossed the border to Nepal and stayed their for 2 months before I came back to India for another 3 months. In Nepal I’ve been mostly in and around Kathmandu Valley, so I didn’t see much of the country, but I travelled a big part India, especially in the North. I’ve been to most of the metropolises such as Delhi, Mumbai, Varanasi, Kolkata and Kathmandu, but actually spent much more time in the nature. I walked 3 months on a pilgrim route along a river in central India, did camel safari in the desert in Rajasthan, trekked in the Himalayan area on Indian side as well as on Nepali side and spent some time in the jungle in the North-Eastern states, which are still pretty unknown. Nothing was really planned, everything was more or less spontaneous. Mostly, I went with the seasons, which is important in India.
Was this trip the first you’ve visited both India and Nepal? What were your first impressions? Do you still remember – and can describe – the first sights or scenes that welcomed you?
This adventure wasn’t my first trip to Asia, but my first time in India and Nepal. What I have to say is that most of the time I was together with my good friend Daniel (his first time in Asia ever), whom I’m really thankful for sharing this amazing time.
When we left Germany it was winter, minus 10 degrees and snow. We had a straight flight from Munich to Goa Airport. Our plan was to camp along the beaches on the West coast and make our way northwards in direction to Mumbai. We thought walking would be the perfect speed to get to know a hectic country like India.
After eight and half hours the plane landed in Goa, we changed some money and left. In the moment when the door of the Airport opened, it was like a thunder storm hit us: hundreds of taxi drivers were screaming at us ‘taxi, taxi, Arambol, Calangute, cheap hotel’, mixed with a wall of 35 degrees.
Somehow we fought our way through the crowd and found a quiet place to smoke a cigarette. We decided to stay with our plan to walk to the next beach, which looked pretty close on the map, saddled our big backpacks and started walking. After a couple of hundred meters it became really creepy, since it was 1 A.M. And the streets were full of dogs and people sleeping on the pavement, but nothing could stop us.
After 3 hours of walking we reached a small beach. Totally exhausted we dropped our tent, opened a bottle of whisky, listened to the ocean and watched the full moon. It was such an incredible feeling.
There’s a lot of interesting street portraits and people snapshots from your pool of travel photos. Can you share a favorite from all of these photos and also tell us the story behind it? Did you have any difficulty taking these people photos?
I spent two weeks in Kolkata, which is on one hand a very beautiful city with the Ganges River flowing right through it and amazing architecture still remaining from the British Empire, but on the other side it’s totally hectic, dirty and full of poor people living on the streets. On day I wanted to go and see the Victoria Memorial. I was walking, since it wasn’t so far, when I cross the entrance to small backyard and a guy forming god figures out of mud. I was amazed by seeing him forming these figures by his own imagination. I asked him if I could watch him a little and take a photo and he was easy with that. Generally Indians are not shy. When they notice you taking a photo, they tend to pose for. So it was pretty easy taking people photos in the streets.
We’re curious about the analogue arsenal you brought along for this adventure. You said you shot 38 rolls and still have some remaining to be processed. What challenges did you encounter in terms of shooting analogue – packing films, choosing the gear, handling and protecting that many rolls of film – throughout the duration of your trip?
If I think back to the gear I brought to India it’s funny to me now. I had a SLR Praktica BCA, that was built in the former DDR, with 28-70mm, 50mm and 150mm glases and a Yashica Minitech AF point and shoot camera. During the trip the Praktica bit the dust and so I bought my first AF SLR, a Canon Eos 5, which accompanied me for the rest of the time.
As for the film I mainly shot Kodak Portra but also had some Tri-X, Ilford HP5, Fujicolor C200, and some Agfa CT Precisa. At the airport I always had my film hand checked to avoid the x-ray and while travelling I carried the film always with me in water proof bag like a . I also number all the film and road down some information that could be important for me afterwards for the processing. I think that’s a very important think to do, especially it you travel for longer time.
There was only one problem for me and that was that I never saw I single of my photos for the whole time of the journey, since I didn’t trust the labs in India or Nepal.
What do you consider to be the highlight of this trip?
It’s hard to tie oneself down to one highlight in a year, so I wouldn’t choose a single moment, but I think the 3 months I spent on the pilgrimage route. We walked around 1500km along Narmada River and cross the states of Gujrat and Madhya Pradesh, met so many other pilgrims, slept in many different ashrams, been to villages without electricity and roads and the people were extremely kind. This was pure India, something you can not experience in places where most of the tourists go to.
Can you give an important piece of travel advice for film photographers like yourself, especially for those who are thinking of travelling for extended periods or heading to multiple destinations?
For film photographers there are many things you should preconceive like the hand checks at airport or to right down informations about what you shot, but you can read this everywhere. To me, it’s more important to do something extraordinary. Go somewhere, where nowhere has been before you. That’s no advice for film photographers only, it’s for every traveller. I can only tell you, that I’ve never been to the Taj Mahal.
Lastly, if you could take just one camera and one roll of film to a dream destination, where would it be, which camera and film would you bring, and what will you make sure to take photos of?
I love to travel as much as I love cameras, that’s why I can’t tell you, but I would love to see Brazil and if I think of Brazil I see colors, so I would probably choose a roll of Kodak Ektar and a Mamiya 456.
To view more of Martin’s work, please head to the links below: