For the last two years, documentary photographer Irynka Hromotska has journeyed across the diverse countries of southern Asia. Over the course of her travels, she’s documented everything from vibrant street celebrations to the mundane beauty of train rides. But, one place in particular has stuck out — India.
Though the country brims with natural beauty — rugged mountains, swooshing rivers, and sandy shorelines — it’s the cities and their crowds that drew the Ukrainian creative there in the first place — and it’s the people who brought her back again.
During Irynka’s second trip she decided to explore the ancient city of Varanasi.
The sensory-driven imagery associated with India rings true in Varanasi, a place known for its crowded streets, its captivating culture, and, of course, the Ganges River, to which countless devout Hindus and Buddhists flock daily to pray.
While walking the streets and riverbanks, Irynka’s senses were confronted at every angle. It was hot, smoky, and loud. There were wandering cows, street vendors, and garbage. She passed people yelling and fighting while others smiled and worshipped. But, she knew there was something universal to every second of it, to every tear, giggle, and prayer.
To Irynka, this is the intrigue of travel. This is why bringing a camera on her trips is essential. These ubiquitous moments are what she strives to capture in her work.
“I think that seeing other ways of living enriches your perception of life, and makes you more accepting and compassionate,” she said. “I wanted to capture universal emotions so people from totally different backgrounds could look at these pictures and think: ‘Oh, that could be me!’ Or, ‘That lady totally looks like my grandma!’”
It’s no surprise, then, to find such humility in her photos, a look of either contentment or worry in her subject’s faces, a peaceful morning sunrise, or a busy intersection. Because, in some way or another, we’ve all been there.
And we’ll all be there again.