About the Book
The ancients in both East and West conceived of all nature - including the human body - as being constituted of four or five elements or essences: Earth, Water, Air, Fire and (in Eastern philosophy) Sky. Modern atomic theory and chemistry have discounted these alchemical theories; we now understand the molecular constitution of matter in terms of a different set of atomic elements. But there is another sense in which we can understand - and still relate to - the conceptions of the ancients. That is what I address in this book and why I use the term Essence, rather than element. Each of the photographs herein speaks of one or more of these Essences. Sometimes it is straight-forward and obvious; at other times, the imagery is more subtle, abstract and perhaps open to interpretation. But why the nude? It is when we shed all accouterments that we can see the human body in similar terms as the natural landscape, realize the common essence of the human and natural forms, feel their common pulse and the blending or contrast of their textures. In my photographs, I seek the essential unity of the human and natural worlds, to express the simple beauty and joy of their union, to see ourselves as an integral part of the natural world and nature as an equally integral part of our human essence.
N. Sukumar was born and brought up in India and educated in India and the USA. A scientist by training and profession, he has been taking pictures since his teenage years, but photographing the nude in nature since 1998. He enjoys both wet and digital darkrooms, working in a variety of photographic media: traditional B&W silver prints, infrared, archival alternative processes, color and digital. Sukumar has worked in the USA, India and Germany and his scientific career and wanderlust have taken him to the far corners of the world. Author, scientist, photographer, painter, environmentalist, wilderness enthusiast, educator and music afficionado, he is also past president, slide chair, webmaster and presently fine arts chair and editor at the Schenectady Photographic Society and Vice-Chair of Photographic Society of America's CPID Division. Sukumar has contributed to several scientific books and journals, lectured and exhibited on science and photography internationally.