The Great Automatic Instagrammatizator, Part 1

In addition to blogging with frightening irregularity (two a month is a resolution for 2016, honest), as this year’s Media Fellow, I go into the field about once a month to document AIF’s programs. In November, I shot photo/video at one of our learning centers in Punjab, where a teacher came up to me and asked, with scrutiny behind every breath, if I depicted “the good parts of India,” and not just, “slums and poverty and rural children” struggling to overcome lack of opportunity. I empathize with her concern — it’s not a rarity for people’s trips to the developing world to culminate as a digitized form of poverty tourism on social media, best intentions notwithstanding.

 

A "good part", I suppose
A “good part”, I suppose…

 

I answered that I hope I portray India as honestly as I can, the good parts and the bad. I’ve had this teacher’s inquisition percolating in the back of my mind for some time, now. Most of the photos I capture end up on Instagram, where, in my never-ending quest to gain more followers, I tailor my digital presence in a Lord Henry Wotton-esque appeal to symmetry, beauty, and educational hostels for children of seasonal migrant laborers.

 

Little known fact: Oscar Wilde was a huge fan of year-round education for children from low-resource communities. Donate today!
Little known fact: Oscar Wilde was a huge fan of year-round education for children from low-resource, rural communities. Donate today!

 

You could make a strong argument that attempting to break down the photos I’ve taken during my fellowship into “good” and “bad” portrayals of India is frivolous in its dichotomous approach to representing a vastly complex nation. And I’d agree. Instead, in this first part of my photo-focused post, I’ll introduce a few of the photos I’ve taken this year that I think might fall into the category of, “beautiful in a make-my-friends-jealous-and-think-I-travel-way-more-than-I-do-on-Instagram sorta way.”

 

Hold onto your butts:

 

Train tracks at Sonarpur Junction, outside of Kolkata. West Bengal, September 2015
Train tracks at Sonarpur Junction, outside of Kolkata.
Sonarpur, West Bengal – September 2015

 

A fine drummer, an even finer purveyor of hugs. Nuapada, Odisha - September 2015
A fine drummer, an even finer purveyor of hugs.
Nuapada, Odisha – September 2015

 

A dog's-eye view of Victoria Monument. Kolkata, West Bengal - September 2015
A dog’s-eye view of Victoria Monument.
Kolkata, West Bengal – September 2015

 

"More like us than we know" Lonavala, Maharashtra - April 2015
“More like us than we know”
Lonavala, Maharashtra – April 2015

 

Preparing the feast for Nuakhai, a regional rice harvesting festival. Nuapada, Odisha - September 2015
Preparing the feast for Nuakhai, a regional rice harvesting festival.
Nuapada, Odisha – September 2015

 

Kids pose for a photo at Bhuj's Halal meat market. Bhuj, Gujarat - January 2015
Kids pose for a photo at Bhuj’s Halal meat market.
Bhuj, Gujarat – January 2015

 

We had to delay our descent of Triund during our endpoint conference, last year, because a cloud formed around us. Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh - June 2015
We had to delay our descent of Triund during our endpoint conference, last year, because a cloud formed around us.
Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh – June 2015

 

A place I'd rather not name, because I want it to stay this way. 2015
A place I’d rather not name, because I want it to stay this way.
Some month or the other, 2015

 

Anyways, those are photos (debatably). Stay tuned for Part 2…

 

Christopher has been creating visual media for the past decade and has spent the past two years producing content for clients in India. As an undergraduate student, Christopher directed and produced a number of short films, which were featured at film festivals, such as The 2011 Cannes International Film Festival's American Short Film Corner, the 20th Annual Reel Loud Film Festival, and The Green Screen Environmental Film Premiere. After graduating, Christopher spent six months as a videographer based out of Bangalore, where he collaborated with INKTalks and the Google-sponsored Next Billion Online Project. As a 2014-2015 AIF Clinton Fellow, Christopher was placed with Mummy Daddy Media in Delhi, where he produced online content for several clients, including Ritu Kumar, Brookings India, and the British Council. He also created a number of promotional videos for regional NGOs, like Hunnarshala in Bhuj, Gujarat, and Aarohi in Satoli, Uttarakhand.

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