Q-and-A: Author Christine Chitnis

In her beautiful new book, Patterns of India, the local writer and shutterbug shares more than 200 photographs depicting life in India.

Providence-based writer and photographer Christine Chitnis celebrates extraordinary beauty in ordinary moments in her new book, Patterns of India, a vivid depiction of India’s northwestern region of Rajasthan.

Your book is such a delight to behold — it has visual impact while also being full of fascinating historical facts. How did you come to make a book about India?
Although this is my fourth book, it is the book I first wanted to write and I am incredibly proud of how it turned out. This book project was a true labor of love that has taken me the better part of a decade to complete. My travels through India, and my love for the region, have been deeply influenced by my husband, Vijay’s, familial connection to the country. We first traveled to India over a decade ago for our Hindu wedding ceremony and from that very first trip to Rajasthan, the color stories featured in the book presented themselves with absolute clarity. I certainly wasn’t looking for a project or traveling with a “story” in mind, but the colors revealed themselves in this way immediately. I would ask our friends: “Don’t you love the way the same colors echo throughout every facet of life here?” And they would remark that they had never thought of it in that way. That’s when I knew I had hit on an interesting and unique idea.

What type of research did you do to lend additional meaning to your images?
I was very conscious of the fact that as a white woman writing about India, it was imperative that the book be rooted in research and that other voices be heard, including experts in the field. I took copious notes when traveling. I then verified those facts through academic sources and additional research; some of my favorite books are listed in the back of the book.

What appeals to you most about design in India?
That every color is imbued with meaning, and it is within the details of patterns that the full story comes to light.

How did you decide to categorize the book by color?
My eye was naturally drawn to colors that are repeated throughout India in the markets, architecture and clothing. Sandstone, rose, marigold and royal blue were always very clear color stories to me. But my amazing editorial and design team helped me realize that ivory could also be its own stand-alone color story, different from sandstone.

What are some of your favorite images in the book?
When I travel with Vijay, I have a unique experience of being able to interact with locals in a way that I wouldn’t be able to otherwise; he speaks Hindi and Bengali. Some of my favorite pictures from the book are from moments that wouldn’t have happened if I had been on a tour group or trying to navigate on my own. On a drive in the countryside, we saw a family that was farming and their kids were around our kids’ ages so we pulled over the car. Vijay started speaking with them and it turned into an afternoon of us eating lunch and our kids playing together. It was this incredibly beautiful and unplanned experience and the pictures from that day have an extra personal meaning.