I’ll leave you to decide for yourself whether or not a basketball game is a religious experience and if the players are worthy of god status but I will tell you that my time at the tourrnament in Chennai ranks right up there with the Kumbh Mela and other favorite all-time India adventures.
I am partially writing this post in response to photographers just starting out who have told me they don’t know what kind of photographer to be…a sports photographer, a wedding photographer, a travel photographer, etc. Sure, in business you sometimes need to have an area of specialization, to market yourself to a particular audience. However, in photography (as in life) it’s easy to become limited by putting a label on who and what we are and then adjusting our behavior to fit the label. What I am finding is that the more I let go of labels in both photography and life the more easily I find myself in amazing situations that I could never have imagined or figured out. “Follow your heart” may be a cliché but it’s a far better cliché than copying what all the other people in your genre are doing.
Here’s how it worked for me…(the short version.) Before leaving America I developed an interest in and started researching basketball programs for underprivileged kids in India…which led me to JD Walsh and somehow thru twitter to Karan Madhok aka Hoopistani who mentioned the National Basketball Championship when he heard I was planning to be in the Chennai area.
Once I got there what made it a great experience, what gave it depth were the people I met. This is almost always true in India. I don’t come here because it’s exotic or colorful, I come here because I LOVE the people. Nothing beats their kindness and warmth.
The first game I watched was an evening game held outdoors. The players asked me to join them on their “bench” (a row of plastic chairs.) The next night when my rickshaw driver didn’t show up the incredibly talented Punjab team point guard, Talwinder “TJ” Sahi called him for me and posed for photos while we waited for the driver to arrive. Once I got to know TJ and his life story (which is worthy of a movie…please let me know if you have any connections) my perspective changed. I started to view the tournament thru the eyes of TJ and the Punjab team and when they won the Championship for the first time in 12 years I was right in the middle of the celebration. Camera or no camera there is no place on earth I would have rather been than at that Championship game and victory celebration….which again makes my point to just live and enjoy life with the camera, rather than going around trying to find things to take pictures of that fit in with who you think you are as a photographer.
Here are a few images from the Championship game and victory celebration. I will soon post more from this tournament and will continue to follow the story of basketball in India.