Archive for category Kumbh Mela

The smoke is clearing

It’s nice to be back. Since my last written blog post I’ve experienced a 7.2 earthquake, the death of my G5 computer and a laptop battery blowup among other things. I am currently in snowy Santa Fe, New Mexico (yes, it’s snowing in May.)

I want to share the story of how I got involved with photographing in India.

Just weeks before my first trip to India I swore it was the last place I’d ever go. Then I discovered the great spiritual teacher HWL Poonja,  also known as Papaji and quickly decided I had to go to Lucknow, India to meet him. I rented a room and a bike and became part of the community. Once I had a taste of India I was hooked.  Each year I returned. At first I went to be with Papaji and after his death I continued to visit for extended periods at the ashram of his teacher where I would climb a small mountain and meditate in caves.

You may wonder what any of this has to do with photography. The answer…not much. That’s the point. Before I was photographing India I was visiting India. It was an important part of my life. Even now I don’t go there to take photographs. I take photographs because I am there. The photos are the icing on the cake.

Eventually the beautiful light and bright colors of India drew me out of the caves and into the world and I had to find a way to share what I was seeing. The snapshots I was taking with my point and shoot didn’t do justice to what was in front of me so I was inspired to study photography. India gave me this gift.

We each have our own unique way of finding what interests us as photographers.

I recently attended a lecture given by Hungarian photographer Peter Korniss who has spent over 40 years photographing Eastern European peasant culture. I particularly like this Q and A from an interview with Peter on AlfaFotoLab.

Student: “How do you choose the topic of the series on which you are working? I am wondering for the duration of the series which could last even several decades.”

Peter Korniss: I choose my topics mostly by my interest. The work of a documentary photographer is very much influenced by his curiosity. If something really interests me then I feel an urge to dig deeper and deeper. This is the explanation to the second part of the question: The longer I work the more I learn about the subject. The more I learn about it the more is given to photograph. This is the way someone works for weeks, or months or for years on the same subject which – step by step  – offers more and more for the photographer. That’s why you are not bored by your topic – on the contrary: you can be addicted.

I’m interested in knowing…
Do you have one particular subject you are passionate about photographing above all others?
If so, how did you discover it?

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A few portraits from the Kumbh Mela

I was hoping to get my new topic posted today but it’s not quite ready. In the meantime here are a few more portraits from the  2010 Kumbh Mela, which came to an end last week. Enjoy!

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Speaking with a camera. The challenge of photographing Amar Bharti Baba.

In Haridwar I spent some time in the camp of  Amar Bharti Baba. He is well known for having held his arm in the air since 1973. At the Kumbh Mela photographers (including myself) crowd around him all day long to take the obvious “cliche” shot…a close-up of his face along with his now atrophied arm and long curled fingernails. After a few of those shots I quickly became interested in trying to come up with a more unique way of seeing him, using my own visual vocabulary.

Magnum photographer David Alan Harvey speaks about authorship often and well on his burn magazine site. He recently told me to express myself with a camera just like I do with words:

“You have created a personality here on Burn..with words…we all know a “Cathy comment” when we read it…it is actually your personality in real life…now, just do the same thing with pictures…the language of pictures is newer to you than is English, but just use the new language in the same way…show us “Cathy pictures.”

In this blog I hope to share with you my journey in refining my photographic voice. At this point I have more questions than answers but hopefully together we can inspire each other to better “speak camera.”

In my final select I chose to highlight his raised arm against the backdrop of the white calendar. The boy behind him looking up at it along with the others surrounding him added to the story.

p.s.I’m looking forward to improving my  Lightroom skills so I can eventually do some burning and dodging on this photo. More about that another day.

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In honor of the Chaitra Purnima Snan taking place today at the Kumbh Mela

Naga Babas celebrating Shivaratri at the Kumbh Mela, Haridwar, India.

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