victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series

after first visiting india over 30 years ago, LA-based journalist victoria lautman has compiled a collection of photographs that capture the country’s vanishing stepwells. known regionally as ‘baori’, ‘baoli’, ‘bawadi’, and ‘vav’, the stepwells are subterranean water-harvesting structures that were built throughout the subcontinent, primarily in india, from around 600 C.E.

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series designboom

all images © victoria lautman

 

 

stepwells were marvels of architecture, engineering, and art, encompassing a wide range of sizes, styles, and materials, with a primary purpose of providing a daily water supply all year long. due to india’s capricious climate, water levels could fluctuate from a relative trickle in dry seasons to a deluge during the monsoon, and when water was at its lowest ebb, steps were required to access the water table. but as the level rose, those steps – which could number over a hundred – gradually submerged, and the cycle repeated each year. this efficient system continued for well over a millennium until it was generally replaced by modern plumbing.

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series designboom

 

 

today, a relative handful of stepwells are preserved in india, including the 11th century rani ki vav in patan, gujarat, which was designated a UNESCO world heritage site in 2014. but the vast majority are derelict and abandoned, with few tourists aware of their existence despite the proximity of many stepwells to popular destinations in major cities. 

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series designboom

 

 

palaces, forts, temples, and tombs are on every tourist itinerary and in every guidebook to india,lautman explains.the country’s magnificent subterranean stepwells, however, remain largely unknown within and outside the country.‘ after documenting over 200 of the architectural wonders, the journalist published a book in 2017 titled ‘the vanishing stepwells of india’ and a current exhibition of the series is on display at the fowler museum at UCLA until october 22nd, 2019.

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series designboom

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series designboom

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series designboom            

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series designboom

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series designboom

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series designboom

victoria lautman captures india’s subterranean stepwells in photography series designboom

 

 

project info:

 

project name: ‘the vanishing stepwells of india’

photography: victoria lautman

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