When You Travel for Places, You Travel for People too.

9/21/2013 02:23:00 AM


An Old lady enjoys the monks mask dance at korzok festival, Tsomiriri

[ My weekend isn't looking very good. It was only Wednesday, when I finished publishing the book, Then I wrote that brief introduction post in english with blog preview. This morning, I somehow managed to write a brief intro in hindi, with little extra details, and it really took a long time. ( Almost twice in every sentence, I had to use English to Hindi translation, Shame on me, seriously), Right now I have two articles that I have committed to finish by tomorrow, 2 totally different topics on fire in my mind ( I have almost forgotten one after writing above 5 lines) and I am writing this post here thats 5th in above list, while wondering what on earth that draft titled "it all starts with you" is about.
Guess what, the above title "When You Travel for Places, You Travel for People too." is actually the title of another article, which is already in the draft list, half written, and with totally different content. Welcome to a crazy traveling photographer,  blogger or in correct words, a bla bla - ger 's life. Tell you what I have already RSVP'ed "NO" to tomorrow's meet-up, My first ever in New York City. Yeah I have bloody no social life  Top it all, I am still writing this post, and now you can ask why. Because, what so ever thoughts are floating in my mind right now, perhaps will all be vanished just like for that draft I mentioned above, if I do not sit back and write em right away. and they are important. Well, You get the urgency.

I was watching a traveling seminar today, in the hope of expanding my knowledge about travel photography. I did not learn a thing. All it did was to surface that one very basic yet prominent issue, that I see in many photographers (famous and amateurs alike) and their portraits,  and that is producing emotion-less portraits. Today I'd like to show few examples, tell my own stories from the road, and try to address this imaging problem and possibly will present a solution for it. This is equally valid for those who are starting out in people photography. so read on.


What according to you is the meaning of "Love at first sight" ?

You have all heard of it, some of you might believe it in too. at least I do. May be its because I am romantic and weird. Okay, Lets think of it from a totally different angle. Love and hate are nothing but two extreme emotions, and You can not develop a certain or any emotion for someone with out making a connection to him or her or can you?. so my question here is, as a photographer when you shoot someone strange and totally random, you just saw, did you make any connection w/ that person?  


From whatsoever of photography that I have learned and understood so far, if you are not the one who waits 3 seconds before pressing the shutter button, You are not a photographer for me. and if you argue that you are, I would still think you are not invested in your craft enough, and you wouldn't have my respect. want to know why?

I will be talking more about What I think about photography, What it is to me, in a separate post. For now, lets just take traveling photography as one genre, and one area of expertise and try to relate it with above.

Traveling photography ( Nature or Portrait) is all about experience 

As a travel photographer you tend to encounter almost everything in the world during your travels. You see new things, you meet nature, you see new faces, meet and know them if you like. and you learn strange ways of living.

You might be the most introvert person in the world, but when you let you guards down, and throw yourself out in the world, whether or not you are one with a camera, you open yourself to interactions and new experiences.

Would you still love traveling if you do not come back with memories of people and places? 

My guess your answer is no. Well, its the same with traveling photography too. if you are doing travel photography that is not making a connection with you or shaking your soul, perhaps you should not do it. 

I mean why would you waste your time, taking beautiful pictures of strangers, and working hard, saving them  in your archives for years if they have no meaning in your own life. how would those image make any connection to anyone else, if they did not touch the first person who saw them.

What would be a Portrait with out any soul in it?

Photography was, it is and will always remain a way to save memory. its nothing more than that, specially for portraits of strangers, those people, who were only special for some other people and not you, until the moment you decided to waste your 6 seconds, observing them, pressing the shutter, and later spending retouching their face in photoshop. you searched their soul. you fell in love with them then and there.

So why would you want to click someone who doesn't invoke that "love at first sight" feeling in you? or let me reiterate the same question...

How can you NOT love the person you shoot?

Devakkooth Sthreekolam | Lady Theyyam

Here I am presenting you three portraits that have i have received lot of applause for and those are above three images. The first one is an old lady ( nomad ) from Tsomiriri Ladakh, who was sitting in the opposite side of the korzok monastery courtyard, watching the same Lama dance I was watching and shooting. I did not want her to see my shooting her, but I think she did. I was totally bored with Lama dance and was just observing local people who were enjoying the festival and I was in turn enjoying seeing them having fun, and that was all I wanted to capture.

Those round spectacles, partial grey hair and wrinkles were something that I noticed only while I was post processing, this image was exhibited, people loved it but whenever I go back and see it, It reminds of my Granni and always takes me back to that open courtyard in the foothill of mountains and the shore of lake tsomiriri.

The second portrait is of a mobile pouch seller from main market of Leh city in ladakh, I still dont remember why I wanted to take her picture, or Why I took it, I sat with her, we had a conversation, She was asking me to buy one of those mobile covers, I told her It wont fit my phone. I took few shots, showed 'em to her, she was pretty shy, we were giggling over something, next thing I remember,  I moved on.

The third portrait which is also been publsihed and exhibited, in this article is from a small village in kannur district,  in northern kerala, also called North malabar and is famous for folk art called theyyam. I learned about the event and also that this was the only theyyam dance that is performed by a lady. That definitely increase both my curiosity and desire to shoot the event, and her, so I boarded the train from bangalore and when I reached kannur next morning,  I see this one old female looking extremely weak and tired, lying in a hut, and an artist was painting her forehead. I could only see a glimpse of her from the little opening of door.

Chris Pfeiffer - The Streetbike Freestyle Rider | Red Bull Chris Pfeiffer India Tour 2010She appeared about an hour later donning her heavy costume, head gear and the body paint, went inside the temple to worship the temple god, and then came out performed the main theyyam rituals which included both song and dance.

The event was covered by local television channel, there were few local photographers as well, and there was me, only girl photographer and a north indian at that. What contributed to the fact that she noticed me during her recital, looked at me in the eye a few times, I have no idea, may be above or something else, But the fact I had a connection with her, for that long was something special to me, and will always remain whenever I'd see that portrait above. and I'd not remember how awesome the portrait is or if this portrait is technically good, or is exhibited, but My brief moment with her. that moment is what I went there for. and that moment is why I love photography.

Now Lets go to 4th portrait is one, that I shot of Chris Pfeiffer in a Red Bull event in Bangalore. Its a celebrity portrait, it is a good portrait, appreciated by people, not badly shot at all, and that too when I just picked up the DSLR, so something I should be proud of, but, It never became my favorite, and I feel not even a 1% invested in it and why is that? because, I pressed the shutter in first 3 seconds. 

Do you respect your subject enough? 

A couple of years back, when i had no connection with photography, I was watching a movie, and there was this dialogue by a Side character playing photographer. It goes like " I want real India, I want to shoot poor people, I want to shoot beggars"

Okay so according to then me, it was hilarious, was only meant for comedy.
It was only later that I realized that people really love to shoot poor people, and when it comes to India, Most of the photographers including the famous ones both International and nationals have absolutely no respect for people.

The childhood innocence | Kanyakumari, IndiaIt must be two years back or so, when I was watching a tutorial online by these two popular photographers, one of them came to India for 4 days, took some pictures, went back, created a book the very next day and published it with the title Incredible India.  The photographs were hardly decent. but that was one thing. How did he learn that India was so Incredible in Just 4 days? A country as big and as diverse as India, considered as another planet by half the world, a country, that is impossible to gain all the knowledge about even after traveling 100 times, forget about traveling, it is even difficult to know India for someone who is born there, How could you take a random trip, see Tajmahal and Agra and go back publish a book for the world and call in Incredible India?

So today when I was watching this one traveling photography session, The same beggar story surfaces again. This is how the flow of the event goes, a photographer is sitting in the backseat of his car, his driver stops the car at the signal, or in traffic jam, few beggars jump in to his car window, he immediately pulls the camera out of his bag, takes a shot and then shoe em off.

Yes, Beggars do make interesting subjects, But why do they not struck a chord in your heart?

Its very common in India to witness a sight like this, and this does not happen with Beggars alone. if you leave a certain percentile of urban population alone, the rest of India and people make for very interesting subjects even in their very basic attire and style of living. and that attracts photographers from all over the country and the world and since most of the people are friendly and dont mind taking their pictures, the photographers often cross their limits, take in-your-face shots and most of the time dont even care to converse and communicate giving excuses of language issues etc. all they want is to capture an interesting image and move on. which is a shame. and little they know that,

If one doesn't connect with his/her subjects on emotional level, if one does not respect them, one can not create impact portraits. 

Untitledthere you have it, Whether it is just travel or photo travel, whether its India or any other country in the world, if you spend time and money traveling, taking all the troubles to do an RTW, but do not make no connections whatsoever with place nor with People. its all just pointless.

So keep an open mind, take your time, show interest in people you meet and shoot, learn about them, and their life, and most importantly, respect them and the way they are. that is what will make up for a true traveling experience and that is what will make you a better person and also create good photographs that will keep telling your story for years to come. 

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