The universe keeps conspiring all the time to keep you from literature and art, making you do trivial and mundane activities. This thought has riddled me for the better half of the past few days. Having to run around amidst civilization’s wilderness, facing the immovable slothfulness of govt officials (who themselves are quite content with an artless, essentially meaningless and definitely unproductive life), and in doing so, not getting to shoot with the new camera.
So I thought I’d visit the local “Sabji Mandi”, i.e. the vegetable market, and get lost in the parallel world picking up a camera instantly transports you to. Getting into one of these markets here is like being dropped in the middle of a vortex of entropy. From stagnant mundanity to chaos. From relativistic space-time to quantum froth. It’s hard to focus on a subject here, while you are surrounded by so many other moments and muses. Amidst these criss-crossing lines of thought and lines of sight, you stand with a camera glued to your eyes, frantically trying to bring back those fleeting moments that invariably escape your attempts. Animals, people and colours all in a convoluted canvas that refreshes many times over every second. It is rather additive. You smile at every capture. You smile at every miss. There are so many things only you shall know. And so few you shall bring back. And then there is more. Addictions and cravings in their inseparable entanglement grip you, mellowing every nagging thought that sagged your smiles, or sagged your hopes alike, in the last few days.
I had also wanted to try out a variant style of portraits that I had often seen. Translating the intensity, expressions and emotions into a monochromatic visual poem, where one can not help but feel as is they are interacting with the moment itself. My photographs here, are of course a euphemism of what could be. But I tried to put in my best of efforts.
I would like to form a premise here. One must know that these were shot on a typical winter morning in Kanpur, where the temperature is often as merciless as the definite march of time. Shivering, and making a living at the same time, these people were generally amicable, and always willing to be photographed. I did not mention that I’m not a journalist (as many were thinking out aloud) . Perhaps that let them be a little more willing, when they were aware they were being photographed. The season often reflects in countenances. I could see Winter’s visage all around me.
Here are five portraits. A little unconventional, this photo essay has been my escape from the tenacious clutches of compulsions and obligations. My indulgence, if I may…
(Regardless of the season, Turbans are very essentially Indian. One of the things that make up our ethos. It’s hard not to come across countless colours and styles, wherever you go around in India.)
(There are very few activities as enjoyable in winters as intermittent naps. While working, more so.)
(All around there are people, walking, working, lazing or even sleeping, wrapped in Shawls and Mufflers. The way the greater half of India tackles winters. And if your Shawl happens to be a “Pashmina”, you could flaunt off some elegant Kashmiri handicraft.)
(Eyes take charge in expressing emotions words cannot. A mere glance can convey multitudes. But equally expressive is the reverie of a dropped eyelid.)
(Well this one was not a spontaneous shot. And he asked me if I would take a photograph of him too. I was happy to oblige. And also to buy some fresh vegetables off his cart.)
Am desperate to go out for more of these, and am trying to stitch patchworks of creativity onto the face of a clock that’s ticking over things I really don’t enjoy. So far, so good. Will get my hands on a different fabric for the next overlay.
I do hope you felt the emotions I tried to convey.
Aperture is one of the most basic and dominating factors whilst working on the camera settings, and to beginners, it often comes across as an intimidating turn of the dial. But here’s simplifying it for all with a Sonnet.
Oft lensmen wonder, “What is Aperture?”
“Whether to use f2 or f20?”,
It varies as you shoot men or nature,
Or to take in lesser light or plenty,
For macros they say use apertures wide,
It reduces depth of field and clutter,
But use narrow whilst on shores at seaside,
And tweak exposure by varying shutter,
By nightfall whilst city lights do gleam bright,
Wide apertures will give lovely bokeh,
You’ll need narrow still to shoot trailing lights,
Though high ISO shots turn out just “Okay”,
As rule of thumb use depth of field to choose,
Large ‘f’ for deep, small for a shallow muse.
Forgive me for any inaccuracies in the Iambs. I am too full of Trochees and Spondees to make way for a perfect meter.
Ladakh, a land where Nature takes charge, dabbing its emotions with strokes of beauty and uncertainty, in a metric expressing of it’s gallantry in the chilling winds, impregnable majesty in the mountains, oft flirting with safety in the narrow ornamental winding paths adorning the rise of her dun bosom, and oft being a haven in its cradle of immovable cliffs . With rivers gently caressing the land, deserts amidst snow capped mountains and a vivid biodiversity, Ladakh is a treat to the inquisitive soul, and is at once humbling and overwhelming, educing poetry out of expressions of enthralment and stunned silence in the admiration of tangible metaphors of infinity and eternal magnificence.
In my insignificant attempt to bring her beautiful visage through the brunt of space and time, I present with utmost humility a series of panoramas I stitched which act as my reminiscence. I invoke the words of great Bards, for my own cannot carry the multitude of emotions that would deem fit such a demanding muse.
(Ladakh is an intense drama with clouds as the prime dramatis persona.)
“Full many a glorious morning have I seen,
Flatter the mountain-tops with sovereign eye.
Kissing with golden face the meadows green,
Gilding plain streams with heavenly alchemy.”
– Sonnet 33 : Shakespeare
The ever changing textures and contours of a dense cloud cover could put Rorschach’s name to the test. It’s a beauteous sight, beholding the swirling ocean of clouds crashing against the mountains. The journey to and from Ladakh, too, is an experience of sorts, where the aircraft takes you over this Valhalla.
A tryst with tranquility
(Traditions mark the lives of people in Ladakh. This one in particular is a fish pool where passersby drop crumbled comestibles for their Piscean pals )
“So are you to my thoughts as food to life,
Or as sweet-season’d showers are to the ground;
And for the peace of you I hold such strife
As ‘twixt a miser and his wealth is found.”
– Sonnet 75 : Shakespeare
There are few occasions in life where one can stand still and wander, gathering their thoughts and trying to fathom the immensity within and its worthy opponent beyond. Were it not for the six foot fence that stood between me and this landscape, I might have drifted into an oblivion of time.
(A view of Khardung La Pass, the highest motorable road on Earth. It stands at a chilling 18,300 feet above sea level and is freezing in broad daylight.)
“I think I’ve seen enough of hate
To know that for destruction ice
Is also great
And would suffice.”
– Fire and Ice : Robert Frost
It takes the most audacious of drivers the most enduring of vehicles and a handsome amount of time to meander their way along the hairpin bends and muddy paths, with frozen puddles all along and chunks of ice, renounced by the snow caps, jarring the narrow roads to travel from Leh to Khardung La. Setting foot outside at the highest junction drenches you in a sub zero barber. The sight translates to Gregory Peck and Omar Sharif’s classic Mackenna’s Gold, only that the gold here is glittering ice all around.
The Nubra Valley
(The Nubra Valley is a mountain desert, at the heart of snow capped mountains, close to the Disket monastery)
“Some say the world will end in fire,
Some say in ice.
From what I’ve tasted of desire,
I hold with those who favour fire.”
– Robert Frost
To start off with a disambiguation, I apologize for having invoked the latter half of Frost’s verse preceding the preamble, for the previous photograph. If it serves the purpose of defence, then it was inevitable because you have to pass through Khardung La before you reach Nubra, the desert land. And I had to profane the continuity of either. Nubra, with its dunes demurred in their pallid manifestation by the snow capping the mountains around, alone, is the holy grail to a five hour journey, snaking through the mountains and cliffs. A ride to the heart of the desert gives a breathtaking view of a divine elemental union, with the temperature rising with every footfall of the enduring Bactrian Camel. It is the first stop in hours before you behold the humbling Future Buddha statue in Disket Monastery.
(Another sprawling view of the mountains and cloudscape along the roads of Leh.)
“Anon permit the basest clouds to ride
With ugly rack on his celestial face,
And from the forlorn world his visage hide,
Stealing unseen to west with this disgrace.”
– Sonnet 33 : Shakespeare
The clouds cast a westward shadow over the rocky terrain, with a gentle rivulet ambling down the valley. The play of bright sunlight and shade is a frivolous daytime activity, as the misty shoulders of the mountains tend to beckon with a divine charm to them.
The Indus-Zanskar Confluence
(The junction of the Indus and Zanskar rivers, Indus Valley)
Beyond the magnetic hills, the valleys open up to an amazing sight where the two great rivers unite. Their names emblazoned in the deciduous ink of school texts have a frail presence in one’s memory always, and seeing them in their might only immortalizes their essence. The rivers freeze in the winters drawing adventure tourists to test their calm against the cold stare of a siberian solid.
The road not taken
(This is a photograph I had waited to shoot for long. The vanishing road without a sign of movement upon it, flanked by a barren landscape on either side was too tempting for me to consider not stopping.)
“Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both,
And be one traveller, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could.”
– Robert Frost
It was too perfect a sight, the etude of the clouds’ harmony to a gaping audience of mountains and rocks as I stood on the concrete aisle of this divine orchestration. Robert Frost’s words could to me not find a better simile than that stood facing me. As a memento, I shot 22 photographs which were stitched into this panorama, for the journey must go on…
(The Indus Valley)
“For since each hand hath put on Nature’s power,
Fairing the foul with Art’s false borrowed face,
Sweet beauty hath no name, no holy bower,
But is profaned, if not lives in disgrace.”
– Sonnet 127 : Shakespeare
I waited for the group of tourists to quench their thirst of posing with the timeless, the infinite, an act preposterous for the unfound superimposition of what is not to stay with what shall not succumb to the ghastly march of time. The immaterial viz-a-vis the immemorial. But perhaps that is the joy of being. How light does not distinguish by the yardstick of a time scale. This shot was inspired a lot by the works of the legendary Magnum photographer Ansel Adams, and I tried a monotone rendition of the landscape.
Leh, Chanspa from Shanti Stupa
(This was actually the very first panorama I shot, from the balcony of the Shanti Stupa. The winds were too strong and too cold for me to maintain a steady hand, but this is the best I could.)
The end of this journey was more of a beginning. As I discovered myself more than I did the pristine beauty of Ladakh. It is amusing how just a slight elevation in altitude, negligible to the planet as a whole, a hostile drop in temperature and a fractal landscape of mountains is all it takes Nature to come up with to thwart the all complacent progress of man at the cost of her sanctity. It is but a reflection of one’s physical mortality, albeit the spiritual ascension at this altar of immaculate confluence of Nature’s forces. A memento mori. And yet the all providing mother doesn’t mean to intimidate alone, for in the immensity also lies her beauty, a vibrant variation of divine artistry in the geology, skies, lakes and landforms. It is, if anything, overwhelming.
But my spirit is free
“So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.”
– Sonnet 18 : Shakespeare
For more photographs from the trip, I invite you to see my album “Live Ladakh” on Facebook. This being my first post here, I’d be glad to have you share this and leave your opinion on.
I shall take my leave of you, as of now. Will get back to penning down the remnant of the journey soon enough. Here’s a message to see you off with from Ladakh.
Om Mani Padme Hum
I hate kids. Oh c’mon! I know you have thought of it at some point of time. It has crossed your corrupt minds to kill one of these little things that suck away the life out of you. Oh yes, they are cute alright, you would like to toss them around like a soft toy, but apparently it is isn’t as amusing to them. So what amuses these ominous, notorious, irksome, pesky creatures who are, if am to banally add, God’s apparent gift to us? I am going to pretend to care and thus analyse how they affect our lives.
I gather that, taxonomically, they come in two contrastive types. The notorious, mischievous, vexatious types can murder the shy, diffident types on any field day. But it just requires for your timid, delicate darling to make a cute face to sweet poison her notorious sibling. The girls around the world stood up one fine day and went rallying around in soft undertones that they would henceforth borrow ideas from the kids. They would too, make baby-faces and the likes, pucker, pout and crawl to get the best out of the race of men. They said they will have dolls tucked under their pillows, color their walls pink, caparison their poodles, intentionally let a drip of melting icecream trickle down their lips and adorn their pretentious barbie-dolls with plaited hair. You would have guessed that they would declare war against the kids with whom they compete for attention and space. But the pugnacious race of women did just the opposite. They embraced the kid-kingdom with all magnanimity, declaring peace.
Ironically, you, my dear reader, know all of this already and yet fall prey to their innocence. Every other advertisement, save for the animated , has a cute kid sauntering around when his/her/it’s size zero mommy telling you to buy the ever so delightful product. They know that you get easily mollycoddled and hence have imprinted the idea that ‘kids are godlike’ in your minds. So just like with any other idea that has been sold to you in this consumer-driven world, you have accepted it with revered servility, never questioning the true essence of it all. Consequently the idea spawns to such meaningless and wayward proportions that it vanquishes the original idea, vaporizing it with all glory.
You have hyper sensitive moms running around with their kids to dance, music, karate, yoga, drawing, chess and whatnot classes; grabbing away, in the well-worn slow motion style of Hindi cinema, the life out of these kids. For every gaffe, these days, that your little one commits, you extol the virtues of his mis-behaviour, you glorify it with photos which are paeans to his inglorious achievements. I might come off as being desultory, but you fail to notice the chalked circle linking the the two aforementioned facets, ‘kids being condemnably cute’ and ‘you being paranoid about your kid’ . It all has the same behavioral etymology risen to a form of bullshit , that George Carlin calls Child Worship.
Shutting the cynic in me, I must admit Kids are by far the best of subjects for photography. They never fail to make funny, innocent faces. They are playful and naughty and can make your day count. They encompass possibly every positive and negative expression there can be. It is just too cute when they cry, laugh, giggle, pick their noses, shout, scream or be angry, just to name a few. If you caught a kid dancing, as a photographer, you would leave your 10 EUR Coffee to go cold, to capture a priceless moment. Infact photographing kids is so adorably popular a hobby that people have dedicated techniques and equipment for the same.
I have myself come across many such instances on my extended trip to Finland and Estonia. I have so many photographs of kids doing a variety of things that I was myself astonished by the sheer influence they had on my photography. They offer you a lot to learn, photographically and otherwise, and ofcourse just their smile can make your day. So I recant all my cynicism and offer you my humble apologies. I might go as far as arranging a carnival for your kids for my heinous comments before. Ah, but then that would be akin to manipulating the consumer in you all over again. But I hear you do not mind!
Well I am just being a just sales agent here. I’d like our consumers to be informed. My fellow photographers have capitalized on this child-worship evolution. A cursory glance on any random portfolio of a budding photographer, would reveal that he has a montage of kid-photographs. Had I been a marketing student I would have predicted that in no time the bullish trend would be snapped cut by a cute bear.
At this opportune moment I give you in hand, my collection.
Welcome to Pensive Polaroid!
We had long awaited to water this garden of art we happened across to the shape of a blog, almost an year ago. Having finally gotten down to it, this blog shall be a memoir of artistic musings mainly exploring the nuances of fine art photography, aesthetics, documenting travel as photographs and accounts alike, reviewing photographs and sharing technicalities whenever, on occasion, our ability permits.
You would, ineluctably chance upon satire and humour in the articles, often anecdotal in our personal experiences, and oft observational in our perception of the world. And while we are at it, art shall be our ink, if not more, to deliver the central idea behind Pensive Polaroid.
For those who are new to us, we welcome you to view our gallery on facebook, which is a collection of photographs alone, but reflective of our ideals.
For now, we close the lid on our laptops. See you soon.