Photography and representation in Ramayana: The Thread of Luminance

I have produced over 35 issues of my Ramayana interpretation so I feel it's time to begin to talk more directly about the inspirations behind it and the use of certain props my version.

One in particular is Sita's Father Janaka obsessive use of his camera and pictorial representation of the Raksasa Ruling family and Sita attacks against them.

Having lived for a while in Thailand there is a common sight of pictures of the late King who pasted away in October 2016. These pictures decorate every home and business and are even applied on the sides of skyscrapers and bridges across roads. They become so ubiquitous who no longer see they - unless so course either a Thai is performing and respective wai in their direction defacing them or not showing the appropriate respect can be dangerous.

And that's because they are MORE than just merely a photograph or a painting.

© Clare Veal

© Clare Veal

Reading The Charismatic Index: Photographic Representations of Power and Status in the Thai Social Order   , Clare Veal PHD University of Sydney describes the implied meaning in photographic images of the ruling monarchy and how since the introduction of photography to Thailand the elite have firstly sort to represented themselves and them to disseminate and control that image in Thai Society as it changes and modernises. Though this paper published in 2013 does not mention the recent development of the internet and therefore not the controversy of the illegal (under the eyes of thai junta) Facebook posts that have captivated the world recently and infuriated the men in green. Photography Clare Veal has taken on a perverse 'cultural capital' it is not as in the west a throw away commodity but:

It is also indicated In the photographic production of individuals belonging to elitist photography clubs; in Thailand, the possession of expensive cameras and the ability to acquire professional Photoshop skills are seen as forms of “cultural capital” that distinguish these photographers from those who use the medium to document family events or travel, for example. 

In Ramayana: The Thread of Luminance I have used photography  as both a means of memories strengthening the bounds of family and friendship and for the Ravana and his family and means of transmitting his power beyond the Palace of Lanka. the Character of Janaka is seen taking pictures of the Dasasthra and Kasulya in Kishkindha and his daughter before she is kidnapped. In Ayodhya Issue 2 Sita, Rama, LAKSMAN and Jatayus share a selfie. It is this selfie that is printed and distributed so that firstly hanuman and the Vanara can identify Sita from all the other girls in Ayodhya and then after Indrajit has captured Hanuman allows Ravana to identify RAMA and target him in the last parts of Ramayana: The Thread of Luminance.

It is not just the power of the reproduced image that has consequences for our heroes but the systematic destruction of portraits by Sita of the King in his palace as an act of defiance. This is a direct reference to one of many origin stories of Sita punishment where in the young bride of Rama desecrates a portraits of evil King damn her and her betrothed to this test of hardship.

In Clare Veal study she makes a note of the symbol nature of representation in portraits (both painted and photographic) and how it relates to barami (associated with physical appearance) and Traibumikhatha (osmological hierarchy is indicated by social position and physical attributes) Though not a direct reference I've inverted the physical attributes of  Rama blue blotches to make him imperfect in the eyes of his family and friends and Ravana with all his wealth gracefully and civilised In the eyes of his subjects which is in contrast to what Clare Veal describes what image making in Thailand is meant to do:

those physically closer to the king and under the “umbrella” of his barami are depicted as graceful, civilized, and beautiful; those residing farther away are seen, often in a forest, as heathens: that is, wild and uncivilized.

You can also imply from that quote a description of the Vanara through the eyes of those civilised from their condo's in LANKA CITY. Images even in a arguably throw away medium as a comic can and do create power and inadvertently be used to under mine that power.