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When an American covers basketball in India.

Here is the link to an article about me written by Amit Sampat which was published in the Times of India.

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Every picture tells only PART of a story

Every picture tells only part of a story.  I want to share with you some of the story behind this portrait, which I am very fond of.

Last winter I spent a month in Kerala, India attending Theyyam performances (click on the word Theyyam for more information.)

As is often the case with travel and photography it was a bit of a treasure hunt…Doing research, making contacts, following leads, driving long distances, often getting lost. Sometimes I would travel for an hour or two and show up at a Temple only to be told I was a day early, it hadn’t started yet. Of course I preferred hearing that over another common line “You’re a day late, it ended yesterday!” In most cases I was allowed to photograph, but sometimes not.

I attended this particular Theyyam for two evenings. The dressing area was in total darkness the first night but on the second night they strung up a light fixture, which made it possible for me to take some portraits. I knew I had taken some good shots of this particular Theyyam performer, Vipin so I offered to share them with him via email. The following day I sent some photos to Vipin as promised, but the email was returned. Vipin’s friend had given me the wrong address. I was very disappointed that he’d never receive his photos and would never know I had tried sending them to him. That evening I went to a Theyyam in a different town farther away. It turned out to be one of the “You’re a day early, it hasn’t started yet. Come back tomorrow” situations. I was in the middle of nowhere so at that point I assumed the night was a bust. On the way back to my room the driver got lost and much to my amazement we wound up passing thru the town where I had been shooting the previous two nights and THAT Theyyam was still in progress. I never expected to see Vipin again but I was “accidentally” given a second chance to get his correct email address not to mention another evening to photograph him!

A couple of weeks later I was attending a Theyyam and a man approached me, saying he’d seen me photographing at another Theyyam. I had this photo of Vipin on my iPhone and for some unknown reason showed it to the man. He looked at me with a huge smile and told me Vipin was his son!

I always say the photograph is the icing on the cake…the experiences I had with Vipin and his father are great examples of what I consider to be “the cake.” Rich moments that come from enjoying life with a camera.
What are your favorite stories about photographs you have taken? If you’d like to share them please post below.

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Since my last post here about India’s 62nd National Basketball Championship I have become more and more and MORE interested in the subject of Basketball in India.

I have a long history of getting involved with things and people just before they are discovered by the rest of the world. I strongly believe this is also true about Indian Basketball.

In this case if not the ENTIRE world, at least in India…(which till now has pretty much been a one sport country…that sport being cricket) I believe basketball there is about to BLOW UP. I’ll be writing lots more about what’s happening in India but for now just want to mention that I have entered the International Basketball Federation’s (FIBA) photo contest for basketball photos taken around the world. They are celebrating their 80th anniversary with a contest that shows basketball is a global game. I mean how could I NOT enter, right?

I am entering this contest for several reasons, the primary one being that I want to bring International attention to Indian basketball and to the National Champion Punjab team and its players in particular.

FIBA’s facebook page  has almost 258,000 “likes” so I am hoping my photo is selected to post on their page. Great free PR for the sport and its players who barely get paid.

Here is the link to vote on the above image:

Please vote! You can vote once per day. Thanks very much.

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A first look: India’s 62nd National Basketball Championship

Happy New Year. All my best wishes for 2012.
If you know me or follow this blog you may be surprised to see photographs from India’s National Basketball Championship recently held in Chennai posted below. More often than not I am photographing religious festivals and god(s) so basketball may seem like a huge change of subject…unless of course you happen to be a basketball fan. Haha.

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.

TJ Sahi and fans watch highlights on the monitor after the Punjab team wins their semi-final game

Time out during the final game of 62nd National Basketball Championships in Chennai, India

The Punjab team celebrates their victory at the 62nd National Basketball Championships in Chennai, India

The celebration continues for the Punjab team.

The sweet taste of victory.