“When I first visited India, I was stunned by its ability to overload the senses with the pure, concentrated intensity of its colors, smells, tastes, and sounds… I had been seeing the world in black & white and, when brought face-to-face with India, experienced everything re-rendered in brilliant Technicolor.” (Keith Bellows; National Geographic Society)
I made my first photographic visit to Rajasthan earlier this year and Keith Bellows’ quote above says it all. It’s a sensation a minute….women in bright saris, men with long beards and lined faces, colorful turbans, cattle roaming freely (and depositing freely!), camel herders, street urchins, Sadhus, snake charmers, local markets, massive cities, quaint villages, scooters, tuk-tuks, street vendors…..and the list goes on and on.
Sometimes I felt I was walking around inside a Van Gogh painting….splashes of color were everywhere. These two windows on this large wall were painted green and then surrounded by an outline of blue with the remainder of the wall left unpainted. Did they run out of blue?
Not sure why….but I was surprised by the variety and voluminous offerings of vegetables in local markets. Meat based meals were a much larger part of local diets than I anticipated but vegetables were still central to much of Indian cuisine. 30% of Indians are vegetarians with the remaining 70% consuming fish or meat as a normal part of their everyday diet.
We came across this man smoking a cigarette while he was waiting for a local bus. He noticed us raising our cameras towards him and was eager to be photographed. He smoked continuously while we all intensely snapped away trying to get the smoke “just right”.
Everything works here…..the background is sufficiently blurred, the colors pop because of the foggy soft light and the smoke adds a lot of character to the portrait.
As a developing country, India’s level of sophistication in many infrastructure arenas is wildly eclectic. In some places you’ll find the latest in computerized transportation technology and in others a way station or midpoint on the way. This man is loading his cargo from a donkey cart to a bus and somehow the juxtaposition of using a transportation mode that is at least 2,000 years old in conjunction with a modern motor vehicle informs much about India’s developing economy.
On a wandering around visit to a small village, this man invited us to his home for some tea and some Indian hospitality. This is really the raison d’être for travel. It’s always thrilling to see legendary landmarks wherever you go but connecting on a person to person basis changes your relationship to the country and its people and allows you to rise above all of the formal government to government folderol.
These kids were in the same village and it’s a common tale among photographers that if you walk down the street with a camera in a developing foreign land you will soon be followed by children wanting their photo taken. One of my favorite gimmicks is to get them all to jump up at the same time which releases any inhibitions they may have and I am able to capture a “true” moment. And of course you always get the one kid who can’t follow directions! The payoff comes when you show them the LCD image in back of the camera and they break out giggling.
I enjoy wandering around the streets or back alleys of new places and waiting for a scene, a person or moment that captures the essence of the place I’m visiting. It’s almost the opposite of a normal tourist experience where one wanders around appreciating the “big picture” and the entire landscape; where one looks for an integrated experience with a new place. I’m usually focusing on something smaller and narrower…details and scenes within the scene.
This woman was with a few friends getting into a local Tuk-Tuk. Her friends were unremarkable but she had an exotic interesting look and when she stared right back at me I snapped the shutter.
Indian cities and towns are filled with local shopkeepers and craftsmen who offer their goods and services in open air shops and small cubbies. This fellow was sharpening knives for his customers.
These ladies were available to apply a traditional Indian skin tattoo practice for their customers. It’s actually probably not a tattoo but more of a skin painting technique.
Looking closely, this clothes line contains both traditional Indian saris and shawls plus jeans and other clothing familiar to all western developed countries.
This fellow is a greeter at a local hotel and I persuaded him to pose in this scene which needed some local color.
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