Back from India now, 2.5 kilos lighter thanks to having to starve myself for the last 2 days of the trip to get through the 9 hour flight home thanks to an upset stomach, and sitting in the peace and calm of my home away from the continual noise , heat , dust and bustle of india.
Varanasi was a place that was on my radar after seeing Joey L’s amazing portraits of the Saddhus and Aghouris there. having my families roots in the Indian subcontinent I have been there a number of times and am both enthralled and appalled by what I see. The vibrancy , colours, beauty and nobility of people doing something to make a living, because doing nothing is not an option. Life finding a way and hanging by a thread when it would otherwise seem impossible to survive. And enraged by the corruption of the political system , the gangs that kidnap and mutilate children and then send them out to beg on the streets and the homeless children and lepers on the streets.
India is a country of massive conflict to the mind and the senses. Emerging as a global economic powerhouse , yet its 1.25 billion people spread from those living in the dirt and dust to those living in the most expensive real estate in the world. How long will it take india to reach some degree of social justice and will it ever? Can the agriconmy of farmers selling there vegetables on the roadside , the cycle rickshaw drivers and tutt tut taxis, the seething, surging torrents people, dogs and cattle on the roads, the corrupt and ineffectual police force, ever come into a place of equal rights for all ? .
Now my photography blog isn’t normally a political and ethical discourse but its impossible to go to India and not question the systems , the castes , dowry, preference for male descendants, the mountains of bureaucracy and every wheel at every political level needing a bribe before it will turn. For those of you who read the blog and have been to India you will probably share some of these sentiments and if you’ve never been , I would suggest to go , its probably no different to the other BRIC economies but the only one that I have experienced closely.
My main goal was to make a film in Varanasi, try and capture something of the vibe of the place and the people that make up that vibe, and of course also make some images. I was shooting stills and video with my 5Diii and 4K video and 96p 1080 on the Lumix GH4. This is a pic of the kit I took out with me including the Glidetrack 75cm rail and the merlin2 steadicam for the slomo stuff.
The Elinchrom quadra is a great bit of kit for strong sunlight situations and I was able to shoot comfortably with high shutter speeds above sync and open apertures to get the feel I wanted in the shots and control my ambient light without using ND filters.
While Varanasi is the holy city for Hindus, the holy men are quite happy to charge for taking a picture of them . Personally I don’t have a problem with this, they need money to live , I’m there to make money from my images so its only fair that they are paid for sitting for me. This chap pictured above was a lovely guy and has asked me to send a picture to his home which I’m happy to do , he was praying for 3 hours making ‘Puja’ before journeying back home to nawada.
There are a fine assortment of characters, some sit like the still lives you would see at Covent Garden with a money pot in front of them , one guy thats covered in ash is very striking to look at and others have small alcoves of dwelling places where they worship and are happy to let you enter and take images as long as you pay them. For some of these images I was shooting with a 70cm deep Octa soft box and others just a quadra head and small diffuser.
One of my favourite images is the close up of the Saddhu, I had been taking pics of his pal and only took 3 of this chap , the image didn’t jump out at me on the LCD preview and I wanted his chin up a little and he brushed the hair of his face but when I looked at this image on my laptop later and cropped in on his face I felt it had some impact and may be my favourite image from the trip
As well as portrait type images I also tried to get some street images of the ordinary people living and working. I’m not sure street photography is really my thing or maybe just haven’t done enough of it. I did meet a French street photographer staying at the same hotel and he tended to take 10 x the number of images I take per day , maybe thats the answer
So there’s my thoughts and reflections on India , next stop is the Rab photography talk at Outside Hathersage on the 15 Nov if any of you can make it along would be great to see you.
Thanks for reading