Childlike Perspectives on My Exhibit - Everyday Life: India

Thursday, November 1, 2012

When we are children, at just two feet tall, for many of us the enormity of our surroundings is magical and amazing (Just return to your grade school playground’s monkey bars and you will get the picture). We not only dream big but we are fascinated by something as simple as a sun flare through an old window. We are intrigued by the role ants play with building a hill and protecting their queen or how an astronaut survives in outer space. As we get older, life becomes familiar; we even become desensitized to our potential by our mundane jobs and the biased mainstream media.

I first traveled to India in 2009 to photograph a Haitian and Indian fusion wedding. My curiosity kept me shooting there for three weeks in Tamil Nadu. Although the wedding was the impetus for my initial voyage to India, when I returned to Atlanta, I felt as if I had barely scratched the surface of some sort of cultural understanding. I was determined to go back one day more educated, prepared and mobile. I was burning inside to communicate more clearly with the people and to connect with them. Alas, two years later I was given an opportunity to return to the country. There was a big learning curve that I needed to overcome and my preparation made the encounters so much more valuable. My photography would become secondary to my understanding.

Honoring my former Indian clients and learning more by immersion, I headed to India again in 2011 for a month to explore Gujarat, Rajasthan, New Delhi and Kerala. I left my wife and family behind during one of our most cherished holidays spent together: Thanksgiving. Instead of staying in a hotel, I opted to practice my participant observation techniques by rooming at the home of my clients’ grandparents in Vadodara. Becoming an intimate part of my host family’s daily lives allowed me to witness the religious practices and customs of a traditional Hindu family. After gaining a level of trust, I asked the children in the home to translate useful phrases into Hindi. I insisted on helping with chores and aiding in the preparation of meals. I was a guest but I wanted to pull my weight and show my appreciation for this gift of hospitality.

To the concern of everyone in the home, I went running every morning around the neighborhood (I was still on a high from completing the NYC Marathon 2 weeks earlier.) I figured out why after my first trek because I was chased by a pack of dogs, almost run over by a herd of cows, and I was asked by locals if someone had robbed me! Initially, I left my camera on these runs so that I could do field research, but there were blank stares by pedestrians as I made my way up a crowded street. I was obviously not blending in at all. On my second run, my airways became so clogged with smog that I resorted to wearing a scarf around my face. This time, no one noticed me. After my third trek, I decided to start walking fast rather than running slow. An aunt of the host family gave me a large stick to encourage balance and protection. By the end of the week, her husband allowed me to join him on his scooter ride to get milk. As he drove, we bobbed up and down hitting potholes; cheerfully I sat facing backwards to shoot interesting compositions.  

I incorporated a child-like freshness into my shooting vantage points by sitting on a curb or lying in the street. I even sat on broken bus stop bench stoops to get down to the two foot level of my youth. This is where the power of perspective occurred. I wanted to bottle up the vastness of my environment and to capture my curiosity in each exposure taken by my camera. I carefully chose the moments I froze. It was all about me becoming small again.  Truly, I felt like the reincarnation of my 80’s boyhood ritual - peering out of my bedroom window watching the world simply exist.

My India Exhibition will be opening next week on November 2nd at our new Gallery Space! RSVP here: