The Challenge of Photographing India

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“Scotland is more like Spain than Bengal is like the Punjab” Sir John Strachey, 1888

In his New York Times Magazine article ‘A Too-Perfect Picture’ (30/3/16), Teju Cole famously criticised the portrayal of India by the photographer Steve McCurry.

Based on a narrow reading of a minority of images contained in the photographer’s retrospective book India, Cole claims McCurry perpetuates an obsolete visual narrative and has a hackneyed style.  Continue reading

Beware photographic portraits

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Portraiture is the most duplicitous of all photographic genres. Not only is the deceit calculated, it is known to all parties in advance.

This situation arises because there are four people in every portrait. There is the person the subject tries to project, the person they really are, the person the photographer is trying to present and, finally, the person the viewer thinks they are seeing. While they may not know each other personally, each is aware of the others’ existence.

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Panna Meena ka Kund

Stepwell (6 of 8)

Located close to the famed Amer Fort in Jaipur (India), Panna Meena ka Kund is a 16th century stepwell originally built as a source of water and place of recreation for the local community.

When I visited with a photographer friend in August 2016, the place was buzzing with the energy of some local guys enjoying a cooling swim. They were completely relaxed about us photographing them and gave no suggestion we were intruding. Continue reading