Escher is alive and well and living (well almost) in India

The charm of Escher’s drawings lies in the fact that he represents in two dimensions something that could not physically exist in three. So by definition one is not going to see a photograph that is an analogue of an Escher drawing. But you must admit that this comes pretty damn close:

The charm and the trick lies in the fact that you can read the steps and their shadows in two different ways. But even once you accept that this is an actual, physicall possible place, you have to admit that it is a pretty fantastic one. And it is not the only one.

It comes from a collection of photographs of Indian stepwells, documented by Chicago journalist Victoria Lautmann, over a period of 30 years. The wells, largely built from the second to the fourth centuries AD, were designed to harvest and hold monsoon water as the water table rose after the annual storms. They became, however, beautiful things in their own right.

Now they are crumbling, as falling water tables resulting from pumping, have rendered them obsolete. How lovely to preserve in images these feats of engineering that remind us both how ingenious our ancestors were and how tough their lives – just think of lugging full buckets up all those steps.

Ruth Slavid

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