“I am not a witch…” Well, actually I am…

So it’s Halloween. Rather than mentioning the ideologically incoherent ramblings of Republican Senate contenders embarrassed by youthful dabblings, I thought I’d dig through the archive and find someone who actually had a coherent world view, albeit a Pagan one.

Step forward the rather brilliant Shan Jayran, pagan scholar, therapist and mum who ran the House of the Goddess temple in Balham during the ‘Nineties. I photographed her for a Channel 4 documentary and then again as part of a project about British Pagans at Home. She was terribly helpful and gave me lots of contacts in the Pagan world.

UK - London - Shan Jayran, Pagan High priestess at the House of the Goddess

Contrary to it’s serious spiritual roots, Halloween is now an American, corporatised globalised money pot that from my curmudgeonly vantage point gives children a dubious moral ability of being able to demand something from you at point of a threat. But I digress…

Here’s a couple of more pictures from the series

UK - London - Freya Aswin, a follower of the Norse God, Odin

UK - London - The Green Man of Catford

It’s been a long while since I looked at these images but what I remember from meeting these people was how charming and generous they were. These were people who, whether you agreed with them or not, had immersed themselves in a spiritual search to find their own personal understanding of the world. Unlike the deluded minions in the Tea Party movement doing the unwitting bidding of real dark masters like the Koch brothers.

Selling the family silver

I first went to Chandigarh in 1996 to shoot a story for the Independent on Sunday Magazine. A fascinating place, it was chosen as the capital of the Punjab after India lost Lahore to Pakistan after Partition. Nehru famously said that Chandigarh should to be “unfettered by the traditions of the past, a symbol of the nation’s faith in the future.” The originally commissioned architect, Matthew Nowicki, died in a ‘plane crash and the rather difficult Charles-Édouard Jeanneret-Gris replaced him. Jeanneret-Gris was better known as Le Corbusier. He made a bold modernist statement of concrete and angles and by the time I got there, it had started to decay nicely under the unforgiving Indian sun. It was however a rather wondrous if slightly odd beauty to behold: a thoroughly Indianised but planned city that worked. Recently it has transformed itself again into a successful metropolis of New India: plush bars, hotels and now has India’s highest per capita income. However, shortly after I left (and I had nothing to do with this, honestly) some enterprising wags started selling off anything that wasn’t bolted down to Western collectors desperate for anything Corbusier. Lamps, manhole covers and as much furniture as could be, ahem… ‘lost’ have been turning up in auction houses mostly in the UK. Andrew Buncombe in today’s Independent has a good write up on it and how many in the Indian government have been trying to lobby to stop this rather sad episode.

Anyway, here’s some of my favourite pictures…

India - Chandigarh - A man cycles past The Open Hand statue
India - Chandigarh - A column and window of the Parliament Building
India - Chandigarh - A man carries a bundle of clothing past the High Court building
India - Chandigarh - In the middle of the day, an Indian man sleeps amidst the concrete of Chandigarh
India - Chandigarh - Chief architect Jaspreet Prakash and map of Chandigarth
India - Chandigarh - A man sweeps the pavement in Chandigarh
India - Chandigarh - A man walks through a pedestrian zone in Chandigarh
India - Chandigarh - A man sleeps under some stairs in the modernist city of Chandigarh
India - Chandigarh - A man bowls a cricket ball to his friend in a car park
India - Chandigarh - A man rests by a concrere pillar in Chandigarh
India - Chandigarh - Detail of the High Court building

Digging for a Dollar a day

Amidst all the hullaballoo about building the Commonwealth Games venues in Delhi, there has been much talk of corruption, mismanagement and chaos. All true I’m sure but I just read an interesting article by Amanda Hodge in the Australian who makes a very good point when she says:

“But those who come to Delhi must also remember that a vast number of people in this host city live on less than $2 a day. Dirty toilets, poorly fitted doors, faulty electricity and taps are not an issue for people who have no bathroom, running water or power”.

I couldn’t agree more. Whatever the logic of the Commonwealth Games (a pointless colonial anachronism if ever there was one) you can’t blame the poor who have actually borne the brunt of the construction (in terms of both building and eviction) for not making a job worthy of ‘star athletes’. In that sense (and that sense only) I agree with Lalit Bhanot who said that the unfinished state of some of the flats at the athletes’ village was simply a matter of “differing perceptions”.

I couldn’t care less for the Commonwealth Games (nor for the Olympics coming to the UK for that matter) – all corporate machination as far as I am concerned – but I do hope that people coming to Delhi get to see beyond the show and the cracks and the security. If they got to meet the people on a dollar a day – most of the people of Delhi – that would be a cultural exchange more valuable than any sporting event.

India - New Delhi - Day labourers take a tea break in a trench during construction works for the Commonwealth Games