Learning something new

 

I’m quite a traditional photographer. To the surprise of many who see me working, I still expose my digital images the way I shot transparency film: carefully and with a hand-held meter. In this way, I’ve always had a problem with photographers that shoot real life and then work on their files afterwards to create a different, almost hyper reality. For photojournalists I find this very difficult to deal with and, as I’ve said before, I believe it can create a serious problem of authenticity and voracity. I find myself however at a stage of my career where I want to learn new things. I also find myself increasingly shooting personal projects with an eye to more commercial markets. Recently I’ve been trying to learn how to create a look that I feel happy with and that I can manipulate for a new project (that’s under wraps for now). After some deliberation and a lot of help from my friends – I have something I’m happy with. This may not be a very big step for some – very old hat to some people – but for me it’s an enormous one.

And it’s always good to learn something new. When was the last time we can honestly say that we have?

I won’t be shooting anything serious like this (in the sense of documentary work) but I may change and evolve a new process to reinvigorate things a bit on another front. Old dog/new tricks. Here’s one I made earlier.

What do you think?

 

before

 

An old man working as a scribe outside a shop in a Jaipur Bazaar, Jaipur, India
India – Jaipur – An old man working as a scribe outside a shop in a Jaipur Bazaar

 

and after

An old man working as a scribe outside a shop in a Jaipur Bazaar, Jaipur, India
India – Jaipur – An old man working as a scribe outside a shop in a Jaipur Bazaar

 

The telling legacy of MF Husain

 

I’m delighted that the V&A in London will be hosting a new show of MF Husain’s work this Summer.

I photographed Husain many years ago in his Bombay studio (I’ve previously written about him here and here) and he was as charming as he was prolific. How awful then that his work, a mixture of European Modernism and Indian imagery, is unlikely to be seen again anytime soon in his home country. He had to flee India in 2006 as Hindu militants put a bounty on his head, charging him with “offending religious sentiment”. The London show is, in a sense, a farewell to Husain but perhaps moreover, potentially to the ideas to which his art spoke: of a secular, tolerant India. As India rushes headlong into the clutches of corporations and those that seek to divide it’s people against one another (rigidly defining those who are and who aren’t an ‘acceptable’ Indian), it ironically may take the legacy of an elderly millionaire painter to act as a metaphor for the freedoms that ordinary Indians – indeed perhaps the idea of India itself – are in danger of losing.

 

India - Mumbai - MF Husain (b. 1915, Maharashtra) India's foremost modernist painter at his studio in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). In the 1990s some of Husain's works became controversial because of their portrayal of naked Hindu deities. Charges were brought against him by Hindu Nationalists but were dismissed by the Delhi High Court. Husain dies in exile where his painting continued to command prices of several million dollars at auction.
India – Mumbai – MF Husain (b. 1915, Maharashtra) India’s foremost modernist painter at his studio in Mumbai (formerly Bombay). In the 1990s some of Husain’s works became controversial because of their portrayal of naked Hindu deities. Charges were brought against him by Hindu Nationalists but were dismissed by the Delhi High Court. Husain died in exile but his painting continue to command prices of several million dollars at auction.

Another one gone…

 

I’ve just discovered that one of my favourite Indian Coffee Houses, in Kollom, Kerala was closed in January.

I photographed there for an afternoon when I was working down there this time last year.

Over the years on this blog, I’ve written numerous times about my love for these places that hold a memory of an older, more gentle India…

 

India - Kollom - A waiter in the Indian Coffee House
India – Kollom – A waiter in the kitchen of the Indian Coffee House

 

India - Kollom - A waiter walks through the Indian Coffee House
India – Kollom – A waiter walks through the Indian Coffee House

 

Martyr’s Day in São Tomé and Príncipe

 

Yesterday was Martyr’s Day in São Tomé and Príncipe, the island nation that I visited last year on assignment for Conde Nast Traveller Magazine. I’ve posted quite a few favourite images from that assignment before (here, here, here and here) but I thought I’d show a little set of images that didn’t make the magazine cut – but that I liked …

Sao Tome - Sao Tome - Boys sit on the wall of the Avenue Marginal 12 Julho
Sao Tome – Sao Tome – Boys sit on the wall of the Avenue Marginal 12 Julho

 

Sao Tome and Principe - Principe - A man poses with his child and his bike, having just ridden out of the jungle
Sao Tome and Principe – Principe – A man poses with his child and his bike, having just ridden out of the jungle

 

Sao Tome - Sao Tome - Young men swim towards the Isla Sebastao at dusk
Sao Tome – Sao Tome – Young men swim towards the Isla Sebastao at dusk

 

There’s a bigger selection on my website here

 

 

 

 

David beats Goliath

 

I was delighted to read over the weekend in a piece by Dean Nelson and Simon de Trey-White in the Daily Telegraph of the decision by Vedanta Mining to respect the wishes of the Dongria Kondh tribe and cease mining their sacred mountain for bauxite.

Vedanta Resources, a UK-registered ftse -100 company wanted to mine the Niyamgiri Hills in Orissa which are sacred to  Dongria Kondh, a protected tribal group of ‘original’ Aboriginal peoples. The Orissa state government had agreed to the destruction of the Tribal peoples land in 2005 but the decision was eventually overturned by the Supreme Court after a tortuous appeals process. The final decision was made by the Dongria Kondh themselves at a gathering at the weekend.

I covered the story in 2007 and wrote about it for the Indian magazine Tehelka (see here).

In a blog post on this site in 2009 I wrote that,

“I am no romantic when it come to India. I don’t share a Raj view of the colonial apologists (despite inevitably by dint of being British having reaped the indirect rewards of the subjugation of that country). I don’t yearn for quaint, underdeveloped communities full of poverty and colour. I want to see India progress. But I know the stink of international corporate power when I smell it… India had no colonies from which to steal resources so it’s stealing them from its own weak and vulnerable. The profits of this mine will not be spread evenly to benefit the Indian economy – it will be hoarded in the off-shore bank accounts of those corrupt politicians and corporate executives who already think that India is theirs by right.

A new middle class India has been brought up to believe that a successful society means a consumerist society. Greed and nationalism go hand in hand: it is not the poor of India calling for war with their brothers and sisters in Pakistan.”

It is a deeply significant victory for the Dongria Kondh but as Nelson correctly points out the flow of modernity is inevitable.

As I also wrote in 2009,

“Traditionally, Indians have protested injustice in a dignified Ghandian way with hunger strikes and marches. While the Western media and much of India has been marvelling at ‘Shining India’ it has failed to notice that a good deal of India is now under (mostly Maoist) rebel control. In Kashmir, Manipur, Nagaland, Bihar, Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh and Jharkhand the Indian state is fighting a battle it might not win.”

I’ve used before Arundhati Roy‘s metaphor of India ‘eating its own people’ to describe that country’s unfettered race to Market Capitalism’. I hope that the Dongria Kondh’s victory for their peaceful, traditional way of life in harmony with the land of their fathers will last for as long it can.

 

 

India - Orissa - Dabu Limajhi, a tribal woman in her home in Kankasarpa village, India – Orissa – Dabu Limajhi, a tribal woman in her home in Kankasarpa village,