Not very often does a thought translate itself so effectively into reality through art that it begins to seem like a truth. But Shripathy’s passion for photographing the night sky, both as an artist and alumnus of International Space University, does just that. It brings Nabokov’s words alive: and the rest is rust and stardust.
Spending most of his childhood in the pristine depths of the Western Ghats, Shripathy had begun to marvel at the many wonders the night sky there held for an onlooker. He channelled his curiosity into studying more about the cosmos, beginning with the mind-numbing pictures that the Hubble Space Telescope has been making of space.
In his own words: “Perhaps the early interest I had to know more about the universe had already made my path clear, and I decided to study at the International Space University with the timely support my parents offered me. Meanwhile, the joy of making images had also become a deeply personal one, and the academic background in space studies only made it easy for me to bring art and science and technology together in my astrophotography.”
Shripathy never missed a chance to travel to different countries to behold and make images of various night sky phenomena. Travel and landscape photography has allowed him to capture the essence of the places as he’s seen them but astrophotography has remained his first love. “Capturing a picture is the only way to deal with what concepts like entropy and arrow of time can do to your mind. No technology, yet, does this but photography does: it freezes time and grants us the fantasy of stopping it and returning to it whenever we want, thus making the asymmetry of time a bearable truth, thus granting us another fantasy of playing with the laws of physics,” explains Shripathy.
A wanderer that he is, this is what Shripathy has to say about his travels: “In the past five years, I have been fortunate to visit over 25 countries and my passion for photography has helped in magnifying all my experiences. It amazes me how every single element of this world can be so beautifully brought down to two dimensions and how so easily. If there is one more thing I would like to try in the near future, it is aerial photography. I think looking at everything from even a hundred feet above will put things in perspective for us. Also, this might be the closest I can get to feel what astronauts feel when they are looking at the earth from afar.”
Shripathy asserts that the gravity of his passion is simply too strong to ignore it even as the mundane details of reality seem to take over at times. “Timestamp memory can be revoked through photography and that’s a great way of finding some sort of permanence even in the fleeting moments. This, I think, is an enormous gift. Capturing the stars, especially, is my way of connecting my mortal existence with the entire universe, with infinity, while also looking back in time, into the past, and staying connected with the very origin of me,” elucidates the stargazer.
“Photography, to me, is also a fight against the mundane reality,” continues Shripathy, “and in the years to come, I want to travel across borders to make more images of the night sky from all seven continents.”
About the role Toehold has played in his work, Shripathy tells us: “when I first learned of Toehold, I went through their website thoroughly, and was fascinated to know how some of the best photographers in the country took people to some of the remotest corners of the country and world. Also, I have been hiring camera equipment from Toehold for various projects. It’s such a luxury because one can’t afford to buy all the equipment one desires to possess.”
When asked to tell us more about his travel expeditions, Shripathy explained how he has met several astronauts and interacted with them to understand their perspectives of our life on this tiny blue planet.
He particularly remembers meeting Sunita Williams and how unbelievably unassuming she was in the ways she shared her experiences as an astronaut: “I guess that’s what happens when one gets to see how grand the design of the universe is and how utterly small our place really is in it. It’s both inspiring and humbling at the same time to listen to the astronauts and scientists and physicists sharing their stories and experiences and understanding of space and of our own planet, our only home. How, beyond borders, everything becomes a part of the bigger picture, a part of the earth as a whole.”
“If there is one thing I keep asking everyone I know to do, is to get acquainted with the concept of the ‘Overview Effect’. Life is simply never the same after that idea gets deeply embedded in your system. The world will be a better place when all of us understand our own insignificance and still celebrate it because it’s no less a miracle just the way it is,” the globetrotter continues earnestly.
It’s evident that Shripathy’s art is strongly influenced by his unwavering love for the cosmos and an academic background that makes his work revel in its own deep understanding. His way of looking up at the night sky and searching for newer meanings within himself, makes the observer of his art connect instantly with certain ancient truths that we all seem to overlook in our busy lives. That’s how the purpose of his art is achieved. We wish that he brings more night sky phenomena to his audience in the form of astrophotography and that we all celebrate our very being as walking and talking stardust.