Why Do I Photograph People?

May 16, 2020  •  Leave a Comment

The Old Man Sleeps. The Others GossipThe Old Man Sleeps. The Others GossipI shot this one in Chitrakoot, in Madhya Pradesh, India.
Ram - or Rama - of the Ramayana fame, spent several years of his 14 year exile here. A version of the Ramayana was written here. The pilgrims, the faithful, gather here by the smelly waters to pray.

The old man possibly had no place to go. The bench was his bed, but there was no darkness, or quiet, to envelope him

I started shooting people when I entered the world of photography. It was a long time ago when I got my first camera. It was an Olympus OM-2n, which was a gift from my father.


Money was scarce, so I started shooting on the streets of Bombay. I think that there was no particular theme that I followed in the beginning. Buildings, animals, people and any bits and pieces of rubbish would catch my eye.


Over time, I did notice that I had a bias to shoot people. I look at people’s faces carefully, and when I look back at my earlier photographs, I noticed that I have always tended to focus on emotions and interactions.


India is full of poor people. They are everywhere, and in a city like Bombay (or, Mumbai as it is called now) they crowd the streets, the doorways, the gutters and almost any space you can find. My early influence was photographers who photograph poor people. Some “art movies” that I used to watch those days also had an impact on my mind, possibly subconsciously.


If you look at my early photographs, you may notice that they are full of poor people, and you will see them in all the glory of their poverty. I used to think that these photographs are authentic.


Over time, I changed. I realized that we photographers are entering the private space of those who live on the street. They cling to their last shreds of dignity. Many of them are abused by officials all the time. Often, they are abused by us. It gets worse because many of us do not even regard them as people. They don’t have an identity, nor do they have a face. They exist to serve us.


As I changed, and hopefully matured, I decided that I would focus on capturing something of the personality of people on the street. Their smile, a look in their eyes, something of their story: that is what I like to capture. I talk with them and smile with them.


I photograph people so that I can share something of their personality and their dignity with the world.


We become richer when we treat people with respect and dignity.


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