Teaching is a Gift

Labels, labels labels: I am a photographer, a videographer, a hybrid photographer, a fusion photographer, film shooter, mobile photographer, image maker, storyteller…..ahh! I think I need to address the identity crisis modern photographers are facing in a separate post. But one thing I do know for sure, is that I am also an educator.

Delhi Black & white street scene barbershop

I enjoy teaching photography and film-making immensely. It is a dream combination, sharing in the discovery of knowledge and skills, helping others grow, being challenged by students, and ultimately, learning from them. The best teaching experiences have always been a collaborative process enabled and facilitated by the teacher where everybody grows.

Delhi India ironic street scene poverty wealth

My spring PhotoClass was one such experience – the students were interesting people and super-engaged. We all gained a lot from one another. Toward the end of the class we took a walk around the neighborhood searching for light and shadow as the dusk came on us; the Delhi sky reddening and deepening into a quick darkness.

Black & White Abstract India

These are a few of the images I captured that evening. The black & white journey continues and the direction it is taking my work is very enjoyable.

Washed Up

A trip to…anywhere restful: that was all we needed. Our kids had exhausted us, work had sucked us in, and hunting for a new home had become a rut of dashed expectations and stress. We needed to recharge. We needed time together as a family, and for two people who grew up near the ocean, we needed to see the sea.

Goa alter
So this past spring we went to Goa for some water and play. It wasn’t as easy as it sounds because, well, the usual local challenges persist, but it did restore us adults, and the children loved it. I’m not going to mention the hotel because although the room-staff were awesome, the front desk was not and the management was awful (totally kowtowing to the Russian mafia who seemed to be all over the place, acting appropriately hard). But the location was great.

Goa India 2014

It took two cameras – the canon 5D2 and the iPhone 4s. One for the wall shots, one for the moment.

Goa Church India

It was fascinating to encounter the old European settlements.

Goa Churches saint

Gold Saint Goa

Goa

As a side note to any photographers who read this, I was very glad of my 1/8000 sec shutter speed for this trip. The soft pastel colours of the sand and ocean, the heat on the sea breeze, begged for wide open apertures. There is a new camera body coming this summer and this trip went a long way to deciding what it should be.

Goa Beach Portrait child

Next time we’ll try taking them to Sri Lanka or Thailand, Bali or Malaysia. Something smoother, less hassle. Cleaner.

Goa India beach Portrait child

But we had our beer and sunsets, stayed cool in the pool, made sand castles in the breeze, and ate fish for dinner.

Goa India sunset

 

 

Little Hands

Continuing with my exploration of black and white, I decided to look at situations that are normally the preserve of colour. In this instance, it was a pre-school shoot – a lively bunch of little monkeys and fidgeting clowns. But I also wanted to do something different with the stale form of the traditional school photograph.

Artistic school photoday Reva BW (2)

These are a selection of the results. We all walk into the homes of family and friends and look at their children’s school-issue photos, and for me, I have always disliked them. They are reasonably well lit and reasonably well composed images that look EXACTLY THE SAME the whole world over.

Artistic school photo dayEthan BW (1)

Our children are originals. Their school life is immense to them. School shapes us. And yet the photographs that come from our school years are boring, cookie-cutter, mass produced, monovisual. I wanted to try something different.

Art original school photo day Aminah BW

Of course the parents got the colour versions as well, but I needed to chase my idea. I’m super happy with them, and think I met my objective of breaking the mould for school photo day. I am going to keep perfecting this idea. The idea was not just one pose, but two at least, and one of those poses would be in black & white.  The parents (and grandparents) were super-happy, which is all that truly matters. Many thanks to the parents who graciously gave their permission for me to use these photos of their Little Amazings.

 

Exploring the Shadows

This past winter and spring I’ve been busy doing some street photography, as well as collaborating with schools, with families, exploring video, adding new equipment, making plans for up-coming trips and projects.

Delhi street kids

I have been working almost exclusively in black & white, and experimenting with different tools and looks.

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This exploration is part of something greater: as I progress I realise that the work is not just about shaking it up a bit – I’m not trying something new for the sake of it – but rather it is the natural evolution of my path since we came to Delhi, when working purely for commercial ends was rendered impossible. Now I get to think about the image alone, about the what I want it to be. More often than not, I am the client.

Mehrauli, Delhi, Dec 13 (109)

The images made this year are about the development of visual purity. This post is going to be the first of many that explore the shadows as well as light.

Mehrauli, Delhi, Dec 13 (140)

This quote from Cast Light spoke to all of my projects this spring. “For the meaning of life differs from man to man, from day to day and from hour to hour. What matters, therefore, is not the meaning of life in general but rather the specific meaning of a person’s life at a given moment.” – Viktor E. Frankl

 

 

Camp Bliss

Camp Bliss

The Pishkar Camel Fair is an ancient meeting of camels, horses, families, and now cars and motorbikes, fun fairs and light. We stayed at an amazing tented camp, called appropriately Camp Bliss

Evening Entertainments at Camp Bliss

Evening Entertainments at Camp Bliss

They were described to us as a local traveling band

A local traveling band played for us

It was amazing

Singing, dancing & balancing!

Singing, dancing & balancing!

Click through the images to see them full-size

Camp Bliss was just that, and we could have spent all of our time being catered to by the most hospitable Vijayant, and his team from Incredible Indian Moments, but we were there for the camels. We we rather upset to discover that there were no camel anywhere – we had arrived a little ahead of time due to the sheer craziness of the event. It literally engulfs the small town in festival madness she it really kicks off, as we played it safe because we have two children under five. They are not ready for such an overwhelming experience. We took a drive, nosed around, couldn’t see much and went back to the tent thinking perhaps our gamble had not paid off. Undeterred, the following morning we took a camel cart ride to go and explore properly. The first two miles seemed only to confirm our fears. Barely a camel anywhere. Perhaps tomorrow would see more camels arrive, we asked ourselves, as we passed right through the camp ground (and a lot of horses) and crested a hill.

Camels everywhere

Camels everywhere

Camels, Camels, camels

The desert was covered with camels and their herders. It was an insane sight.It was a festival of meetings

Incredible faces

Incredible faces
Time worn and dusty

Time worn and dusty

And noisy

And noisy

The entire three day stay turned out to be an unforgettable experience.

Pushkar

Ho! Ho! Ho!

A photographer gets to see many unique things, to witness once in a lifetime events. Sometimes I also get to help others by publicizing their hard work and charitable efforts. Such as this event: I was the official photographer to the AWA Christmas Mela here in Delhi. My brief was to photograph the entire day from set up to set down –  to record the work and successes of the organizing committee, and the fun people had kicking off the Christmas season by contributing to good causes. I arrived at 5am, and left just before 6pm. But by no means did I work as hard, nor as long, as most of the volunteers!

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It was dark and cold (a new experience for me in Delhi) when the doors opened to the vendors.

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The wares came in on a fleet of exceptionally well organized bicycle rickshaws.

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The sun came up and revealed a line of rickshaws disappearing into the morning smog haze.

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Dedicated AWA volunteers, and exhibitor.

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Our daughter has not forgotten last Christmas. We expected her to be full of Christmas cheer for most of January but by March we started to try and tell her that it was time to start to think of other things, Easter for example, and to give poor old  Santa some peace and a well earned rest. It did not work. Seriously, it’s been a year long obsession.

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So it was with some relish that later in the day she (along with the whole family) joined me at the Mela. I think she imagined she was going to see a field full of her Christmas dreams, a place that resembled Lapland or the North Pole (in leafy Delhi, in November, at 28C). I think she felt a little let down! But when she found these decorations she burst over them in her special way, and we ended up buying half the store.

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The entertainment was introduced by the U.S. Ambassabor to India, and it was themeed around the rights and champions of women’s freedom – against slavery, abuse, rape.AWA Mela 2013 LoRes (219)

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The mela was a huge success.

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This is my favorite portrait of the day. All he wanted was his photo taken. Nothing else, not even a copy.  I shot it on a long lens as well, so he had to have spotted me a long way away and beckoned me to take the photo. So it did, and we both liked it.
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Pack-down started promptly but it must have taken hours and hours…

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I do wonder what the rickshaw peddlers made of it all, looking in on the world of items for sale at Western prices, often made my ex-pats for ex-pats, or for wealthier Indians.

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Most of the labor, including the rickshaw drivers, that heaved and pulled and carried and stacked to make his event such a success, live in slums.

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AWA Mela 2013 LoRes (373)As my son got to name the previous post, my daughter got to name this one. “Ho, Ho, Ho,” she kept chirping as we walked to the Mela. Hohoho indeed. Happy Holidays from Delhi!

Va-Va-Vroooooom!

The India Grand Prix: a birthday gift from my wife and mother-in-law. But due to family illness – everyone was laid flat by the flu – I had to attend race day alone. Nonetheless, I got quite excited about this. It is F1 after all.Indian Grand Prix 2013 Lo-Res (45)

A Grand Prix is an exciting day out, a festival of speed, air displays, celebrity spotting, a bonanza of overpriced but quite cool merchandising, lots of bad-for-you-but-tastes-good food, and a tremendous atmosphere for such a spread-out open-air event. You never quite know what to expect.

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But the India Grand Prix has been suffering from well documented problems, and this whole experience was none of those anticipated things.

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It was eerie, misty, cool, strange and vacant when I arrived. The heat grew quickly and the smog deepened, and a listlessness spread over the circuit. This was day three of the event but it was still being put together, as if I had come the day before it all started.

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At times it seemed that more people were collecting outside the track than inside. But at least inside they were serving beer and strange food – at ten in the morning!Indian Grand Prix 2013 Lo-Res (141)

Eventually the scorching midday sun passed into a breezy afternoon and the race got closer, and my trackside position benefited from the massively undersold grandstands and empty green knolls, on which one could (and many track & circuit workers did, alongside the guests) lay back and doze in the smoggy sun.

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I did not join those sleeping on the grass. I scouted out the best places for the action, drank galloons of water and a beer or two. The first hint of anything happening for real arrived in the form of the driver’s presentation lap. I got to see close up some familiar famous faces.

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Then it was Lights Out, and the Grand Prix race itself was edge of your seat stuff: being this close made you appreciate the speed and danger of the drivers in their cars, the forces at work, the engineering.  Now the day came alive - and the crowd was enthusiastic, punching way above it’s weight. Roaming the entire south side of the circuit I got the camera into some nice positions.
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Not as nice as some…

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Boy, I forgot how loud these cars are.

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The local hero…

Indian Grand Prix 2013 Lo-Res (50) cropThe chase…

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These guys are unbelievable quick…
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Separated by tenth’s of seconds…

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There were drivers I have followed for years, great teams, famous marques…

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It was an added bonus to see a Wolrd Championship decided here as well.

Leading from pole, Vettel effectively led for the entire race and took the flag for his forth consecutive world title.Indian Grand Prix 2013 Lo-Res (212) cropped

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He was never under any real threat…Indian Grand Prix 2013 Lo-Res (63) crop

..and  is rapidly becoming the racing legend his potential claimed he would be.

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There were smoking doughnut’s on the home straight before he jumped out of the car and saluted it and the crowd. He got fined heavily for that.

Indian Grand Prix 2013 (256)And cheers & tears all round. By the end of the day the sun set orange and early through the smog and the mosquitoes came out as if sensing their brief existence was coming to an end, so we just fled the circuit and came home. An interesting experience. The title of the post was inspired by my son’s reaction to looking at the photos. As usual, double click the image for a full size experience!

Reaching For The Sky

Some time ago I was lucky enough to visit Alpha Montessori, a school born of the vision and dedication of a number of remarkable people who are working tirelessly to improve the lives of children and their families through education.

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In the previous post I failed to give proper recognition to this team of visionary individuals that have made the school a such success. The school’s founder, Rajesh Batra, called me out on this oversight, and I must apologise to those people whom I ommitted to mention last time I wrote about the school.

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I want to draw attention to all of the people involved in the school who have worked selflessly and tirelessly to make it such a success.  Specifically, I would like to aplaude Mrs. Amita Bardwick  “who has prepared everything and put her heart into it,” and Mrs. Rajalakshmi Mohan and Mrs. Anita Chandel, “who have been associated with us for their kind and humble services for the children.” These women are heroes. We need more like them, everywhere.

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There are of course many other people involved in the success of the school. As Rajesh says, there are those who have “put their soul into it. We have our committed teachers and staff who have been with us for all the good and bad times. Facing the challenges and overcoming them with courage and commitment.”

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In September the school realised a long standing dream and opened a roof garden for the students. They can now grow gardens, nurture plants, observe and measure. It is open space in a congested city. There is blue sky in the schoolroom. It has taken many months and a lot of fundraising to get it built and I was asked to photograph the opening ceremony.

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What I witnessed took my breath away. The program was amazing, with many well rehearsed performances. So much work had gone in to making the costumes alone!

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The photos of the opening ceremony obviously tell the story of the work of the staff and the school community, but mostly they show the children’s joy and confidence, of their commitment to their school.

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These were kids so happy. This was something that they owned.

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I can’t even be sure that these are the best images. Every time I look at them I choose another batch to blog.

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I have choice paralysis when it comes to this event because each photograph in its own way tells of the joy and accomplishment of each child. Each image captures a split second of success.

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AM Roof Garden Opening Cem Lo-Res (505)Inspiring. We can change the world.

And The Days Fall Like Rain

I seem to have lost a month. The time has slipped by without me noticing. The last time I checked it was raining. A lot. Monsoon rain coupled to the summer inferno; mosquitoes, heat and humidity, and a good dose of cabin fever setting in because me and the children couldn’t get out. Then the school term kicked into gear and the kids got busy. And me too. I’ve been teaching again which is always nice. Photography commissions came in thick and fast, and then illness.

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The days fell like the raindrops from the sky and floated away. Rain378

Our garden flooded and drowned the grass in a swampy death that just bred bugs and flowers.Rain377

Now it is a dusty playground, a child’s savannah. The kids love it but I wish our grass had survived. Delhi is far more livable now, much easier to walk through. The pollution is settling in too, along with the cold nights. Perhaps not so livable after all.

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Rain380I do not know where the days have gone or where I have been. October is a mystery to me, a passing face on the train carriage that is the the year.

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So much has happened. Its time to let the photos do the talking.