Saturday, October 30, 2010

A few pics from Rajasthan

Rajasthan is is great. First, it has the mood.

Second, it has mind-blowing colors.

And then it has all those incredible faces... so often seen in other photographs. Already back in 1999, when I presented my first Indian portfolio to Tamás Féner, a living legend among Hungarian photojournalists (he is so old-school that he hasn't even a webpage, but would be nonetheless on pair with the greatest ones had he not been born in Hungary) and I'll never forget the resignation in his voice: "oh yes, India, Pushkar camel fair and stuff like that, do you know how how many million photos we've already seen of that?". Even though my pictures at that time had nothing to do with Pushkar or Rajasthan, he had a point - Rajasthan is a people photographer's paradise and who could resist the temptation? I couldn't. To realize that I can't photograph every smart face and pretty peasant girl was a hard reckoning, but then at least I tried...

In most situations a polaroid, some charm and loads of humour suffice to create an open and honest relation between me and my subjects which is prerequisit to every good portrait. Sadly, it was in Rajasthan that I had my first and only conflict with people over taking their photographs. I noticed the beauty of this scene from the car - three women walking in the fields in their bright dresses under the overcast sky.

I let Soni pull over, ran up to them and took this shot, and seeing that it's not that remarkable I already wanted to return to the car, when the woman on the left noticed me. She came to me and asked for money. I hate giving them money, my polaroid was in the car and didn't want to pay them anyway because I didn't like the photo and took it from far away, without their faces visible. The woman got angry and shouted, "paisa, paisa" meaning "money, money". I calmly said, no. She then raised her hack (or is it called a hoe?) and threatened to trash me, to which I equally raised my Gitzo monopod and there we stood in a Rajasthani stalemate: she was ready to trash down on me with that hack and I assuming the same pose with the monopod. There was nothing funny in this situation but I almost laughed since the scene reminded me to a kendo fight. Not seeking trouble, I slowly moved backwards until she turned away.

Neither could I resist the temptation when we visited the Sham dunes (which should be rather called "scam" or "shame", for it's a tourist circus)...

... and all those desert gypsy girls pestered me to have their photo taken for five, ten, twenty dollars - depending on how they assessed my finances by my look. I admit I booked a model for five, so to say, with her daddy doing me the extra favor of standing in the background on a camel, just to experience how low one can get in photography... although probably the lowest thing one could do were to show such a photograph anywhere else than in a photoblog.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

A few pics from Almora

One must love Almora. Easier to discover than Simla, more charming than Mussoorie and definitely less crowded than Mussoorie, it seems to be the most liveable of the hill stations I know. It's as relaxed as an Indian town can be and the pedestrians-only bazaar still has some old houses with delicate woodcarvings on their facade. It was the only place where I got even remotely close to street photography in India.

Two days later, already in Rajasthan, we were having a coffee&cigarette break in a dhaba when Soni looked up from his newspaper and said, "very bad rain in Almora, road we came is blocked now, dozen people dead". We were on our way to Jaisalmer and upon hearing this, I started having serious concerns about the safety of that town. Wherever we went, disaster followed. I actually wanted to spend one or two more days in Almora but heavy rains were exactly what I was afraid of and voila, it happened. The only thing worse than leaving a good place in the anticipation of something bad is to be eventually proven right.