Dust Settles Even On The Wind

Photography is an art, a craft, a business, a job, a vocation; it is technical and it is instinctive. Quite a mix. Once, not long ago, I worked only for money and did not often stop to look or to stare out of the window. I used to do that – take the time to let the world jumble into place, let the camera find its frame, but it took me a while to realize I had stopped doing it.

Indian Man by River

I worked hard to do what people expected of me. Or at least, I worked hard to deliver clients what I thought they wanted, and worked harder at trying to bring in more clients by anticipating ways to meet their needs. Is there a shorter way to say this? Yes: I had stopped shooting for myself.


Jama Masjid Delhi
Coming to India was hard for me at first because I lost that momentum to being in business, but in actual fact it has been a blessing. It has made me look at the world again, and settle the lens into the current of what flows before us. My journey continues traveling through the shadowlands of black and white. I remain spellbound by it.

MCP_5165-Edit

It is a good journey. I am playing with different black and white processes.  Now that summer is here in northern India, and with it the soaring temperatures, color seems to be everywhere, yet I cannot leave the shadows alone.

Old Delhi BW Shopfront

Perhaps it is my subconscious looking for shade and cover from the relentless sun? Or the monsoonal storms?

Monsoon storm in Black & white

So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.” – T. S. Eliot

 

 

Brave new Worlds

The world of photography has changed. We photographers hear about it all the time – how the profitability has gone, how the market has tanked, how everyone has a camera now and people in general no longer value a good photograph. And it is true. Images shared on FB, Uncle Bob taking your wedding images on his fancy new DSLR or mirrorless retro-styled camera, continue to have a measurable impact.

IMG_5317

The selfie craze illustrates what we value in terms of image content and quality of image. Photography has gone democratic, guerrilla even. OMG, cry the aristocracy, the masses have taken over. Its all so common.

Tristan boy sulking

Things certainly have changed. Imperfection is the new vogue. Blur is back. Sunflare is art. Film is the new digital. Fake film is trendy. The phone camera has all but killed the point’n’shoot camera, and it has ushered in the electronic screen as a replacement to both the traditional viewfinder and more importantly the photographic print as the main medium of exhibition. Furthermore, the Internet’s sharing capabilities have stopped many people from bothering to walk into a studio and pay for a professional shoot.

Delhi hotel bar abstract

But all that is to miss the point: it has also innovated image making, moving it on from previously restricted practices, allowing people who did not have the time or money or traditional skillset to work in this way. Most new users (and by definition, there are millions of them/us) are loving the democratization of photography.

Old Goa iphone

Mobile devices have proved fertile soil for innovation in post-processing, ease of use, speed, and sharing our work with the world. This isn’t going to go away. It is only going to get better – devices and apps will be easier to use and it is increasingly easier to create good content. It is fun and inspiring.

Delhi street scene homeless

Yes, the professional photographer is going to have to work harder to keep their value at sustainable levels, and to do that we are going to have to embrace inevitability rather than resist it. Sure, there are going to be far more poorly executed ideas thrust upon us, more blogs (like this one) to add to the digital noise, and yes, ye ole’photographers, it is diluting the profession. But the good will stick out from the crowd and the innovative will rise to the top.

Chocolate cake editorial

We’re not just photographers any more. We’re image creators, storytellers, and we need to blend different technologies and forms into something that people want. We have to make images move; we have to make moving images. Integrating the new technologies with the old is essential to our future. I haven’t figured it out yet, but it is fun to be on the road and part of it. Below is a set of shot’n’processeed on the run in Gurgaon.

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(Note: all of the above images were taken and edited on an iPhone 4s).

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.

Mehrauli, Delhi, Dec 13 (106)

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

 

 

The India Journals has been an enjoyable experiment in an enclosed capture – develop – share workflow and has been a success (for me) as a learning and creative experience. As photography evolves and becomes more about image creation rather than just image capture, it has been exciting to jump into the new world and see where it leads. Now however, The India Journals must stop here. My own journey is no longer about India as a novelty. India is me. It’s my home, and so my mobile photographs must flow into the mainstream. I am evolving as a photographer and I need to follow the path opening up to me. The phone-captured photograph needs to have the freedom to be processed anywhere it needs to be, such as Lightroom or Photoshop. In the coming months will get to my primary blog at markcowlin.wordpress.com more often, increase my twitter presence @MarkCowlinPhoto, and eventually leap into G+. There are a host of other options to explore as well – and not just the obvious ones like Instagram – but new exciting ones like OKDOTHIS. In the meantime I’ll let the main tumblr take the bulk of the mobile work. Thank you for following me. I’d love it if you’d join me and switch lanes and come to the more representative markcowlinpictures.tumblr.com

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