When I wrote the first entry of this blog, I thought I had a clever idea. I planned on using all of the same photos for the second entry, with differently-worded captions to make a blatant, redundant point: “good” and “bad” are both a matter of perspective.
In hindsight, this approach is just lazy, and it doesn’t address the questions the headmistress in rural Punjab asked me: do I show the good parts of India, or just the bad?
I take a decent amount of photos in India. Some I consider outright dreadful with regards to the basic tenants of photographic composition (these don’t even make it into the editing room). Others I consider bad because they depict scenes already deeply ingrained in the public imagination: a head-on, wide shot of the Taj Mahal, for instance (I’ll occasionally post these due to my superficial grasp of self-marketing).
There haven’t been too many occasions where I’ve taken photos of things I consider to be subjectively bad. The one instance that comes to mind right away was when I was in the foothills of the Himalayas in Uttarakhand for a shoot, last May. I was in a car being driven to a newly-constructed women’s bathroom in a very remote village, when I spotted two women carrying enormous piles of some harvest crop on their heads (I’d been told women alone do this sort of heavy lifting in the region). They were climbing uphill, carrying these enormous loads, while men lounged idly nearby at a roadside dhaba, sipping chai and laughing amongst themselves. I hastily turned on my camera and snapped a blurry, passenger seat photo of the scene. Upon reviewing the photo in the following moments, I remember thinking to myself, “This looks bad.”
I don’t know why I’ve allowed that headmistress’ question to dog me as long as it has; maybe I’m just insecure as a photographer (“I consider myself a videographer in training, actually” *sips chai with pinky out*) or maybe there’s the notion that some people in the underprivileged areas I’m going into for shoots don’t want their lives to be subject to fundraising galas and Facebook gawkers.
Or maybe she was just a protective headmistress who only wanted to make sure I wasn’t taking photos of any dirty walls or kids who were goofing around instead of paying attention in class?
Anyways, that’s two posts in as many weeks…
Until this time, next year!