July 1st, 2014
As many of you know I have just spent the best part of 3 weeks touring and photographing very specific regions of India along with several other photographers (all from Australia). The places we visited, the people we met and the things we saw will be with us for the rest of our lives. I don’t consider myself much of a blogger and generally my preference is to let the photograph tell the story. That said, I found this experience almost profound (certainly confusing) and feel the need to share some of my thoughts, even if only to help me make sense of a small part of it.
The tour was led by Dennis Jones, a professional photographer and adventurer with over 40 years’ experience in this part of the world. Consequently our tour was not quite like anything you would organise with your local travel agent. People who know me well would already understand that my decision to visit this part of the world was primarily based on the potential for photographic opportunity. While that is indeed the case, there was a second reason… A self-prescribed dose of reality. Something which takes you out of your comfort zone and exposes you to events, situations and hard-ship which could not be experienced otherwise. My view is that such experiences shape your values and help to re-enforce what is truly important in life. I think both objectives were realised although the second one more so than the first.
India is a fascinating country. It is a land of extreme contrasts, both socio-economically and culturally. It has a history which defies belief with some cities (like Varanasi) being around 6 thousand years old. The people are warm and friendly (for the most part) and they look after each other. I have been to other Asian countries but there is an intangible something about India which can’t adequately be justified by mere words. I discussed this with some of my fellow travelers and we all agreed that you would need to experience it yourself to understand. What I can say is that it is intense and somewhat confronting. Everywhere you look there is something happening. Whether it be a ridiculous traffic situation, a beggar asking for money, a cow (or three) walking through the neighbourhood, monkeys racing through the tops of buildings (dodging a labyrinth of electrical cables) or kids just playing cricket in the middle of the street. You just don’t know what you are going to see around the next corner… it’s amazing.
From a travelers’ perspective (especially a westerner), it’s like being at DEFCON 2 for the most part and it does suck the energy from you a little. That is, until you learn to relax and just take it all in. Every one of us was sick (to varying degrees) at some stage. It is absolutely filthy yet it is beautiful at the same time. It is full of hardship for some yet there is a humanity which shines through. The textures and interest created from age and decay is astounding. With all this comes a kaleidoscope of photographic opportunity (and even more missed opportunities). I took several thousand snaps during my time in India. I found myself so interested in what I was experiencing that I tended to point my camera at almost anything (doesn't matter). I think many of us did the same.
From a photography perspective, for me, this trip was meant to be about street portraiture. Sure, there are buildings and textures and all those iconic photos like the Taj Mahal, but nothing is quite as challenging as nailing a candid shot of interesting people in adverse conditions. A bit like photo-journalism… pretty difficult. You are thinking about exposure and lighting all the time and often you find yourself using camera settings which are uncomfortable (like high ISO) in order to attain reasonable shutter speed and depth of field. Sometimes you can grab the shot without being noticed and other times you will need to interact with the subject in order to force a situation which has potential. On the streets of India it can be hard work but that only makes it more satisfying when you get it right. I suspect that only a small percentage of the images I took will be reasonable photographs. I’ll post them as I find them in the coming weeks.
We spent a considerable amount of time in more remote regions of the country (around Zainabad and the Rann of Kutch in Gujarat) and got to interact with villagers who see very few foreigners. In these areas, life is pretty tough for many and some of the things we saw were a little confronting. That said, it didn't take much to bring a smile to the face of many of these people who despite the hardship seem basically happy with their simple lives. That is something to reflect on…
Am I glad of the experience? … absolutely. Would I go again? … yes, I think so, but not for a while.
January 7th, 2014
If you are reading this then you have either stumbled upon my gallery via one of Fine Art America's domains or gone to http://bradgrovephotography.com directly. Regardless, welcome to my new site and thanks for stopping by :)