Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Village

It was like walking in a David Bowie song. The foot fell onto powder, a soft cushion that give way and sent a cloud of moon dust into the air. This was the path to Dana's village. I've never walked on anything like it.

Dana led me back to his village, well I would say hamlet. The village is Brirendiaya but 'village' is a loose term. It clovers 7 KMs and consists of many hamlets. Dana's hamlet had about 10-12 houses or Bhungas (round houses).

Dana is the village pop star. He has just come back from Indonesia. He plays the wash board but that's his English. He plays a drum that uses goat skin over a medium sized pot and a wash board. It doesn't seem much but it sounds great, especially in a round house.

This is Dana's season and he's playing a concert most nights. In April he'll go to America.

Father and Son

Arjun (above) is Dana's brother but I don't think this is in the literal sense. They don't have the same mum for starters. Arjun works with camel leather and fashions wallets, shoes, mirrors and accessories for the house.

Communial cooking. For villagers and visiters. For a mere 25 ruppees (20p UK or 40 cents US) you get a spicy vegetable curry and as many chapatis as you want.


Stand strong girl! Some kids from the village

The head of the village.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

White Balance; an area to work on

I'm fairly new to digital photography. I got my Canon EOS 400D about six months ago and I have learnt loads since then. Evidently, I have loads more to learn as well.

White Balance is the issue I most need to address.

White Balance (WB) - the camera uses a 'recording' for white to work out the reproduction of colours. If the white is recorded right then the reproduction of the colours will be accurate (for a camera). But the 'recording' of white changes all the time due to 'colour temperature' and therefore white balance changes all the time.

Many of mine photos have been affected by either using Auto White Balance (ABW) when a preset or custom setting for WB would have been better or using the preset 'sunny', 'cloudy', 'tunsgens', 'fluorescent' etc., and not changing the setting when the light source changes. This has lead to many of my photos looking a bit strange or dull.

At this stage

I guess that I need to have my light setting to ABW for most occasions. At the moment, the main exception I know of is for sunrise and sunset.

Use preset WB if the light source is going to be constant and remember to turn back to AWB when I finish shooting.

Also to learn how to do custom WB, so if I'm going to a lot of photos, say indoors, then a Custom WB would be better.

Also to shoot using RAW, as this will give you the option to correct WB after shooting.

Friday, December 21, 2007

I might have found a village

I was heading to another place but I had to change at Bhierndiara. There this man came up to me and offered me a tea. This is very common in Gujarat.

He told me he's a pop star for old music. I thought yeah, but he's right. He had just come back from Indonesia where he proformed at several cultural events.

Anyway, I took up his offer and headed to his village. A 15 minute walk down the most dusty I've ever seen. It's powder, space powder, you could feel the ground give as you walked along.

His village contains about 10 houses, most of them round mud huts. I went to his house where he played some music on his 'pot' drum and wash board. His friend accompanied him with tiny cymbals. The music was great, it was music that you could feel resonating in your body. I was surprised.

Anyway, I went there earlier and had a 'kinda' meeting with the village elder and some others. I explained the project, though it would have been a lot better to show demo pictures. I not sure of the answer, I think they gave me a cautious yes. Will print some demo pictures for them.

So hopefully, things will happen on Sunday. We'll see.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Indian workshops

India is fast industrialising. Everyone has a mobile, even in the depth of the desert, a turbaned wearing man will pull out his mobile phone. ATMs are now commonplace, internet shops aplenty (sometimes) and in the big cities, the sign of international arrival, chained coffee shops are opening up.

But India is vast. In size and especially in the number of people. Old ways can still be seen, leave the main street in a major city and the backstreets will show you how India has looked and worked for many decades. In a small city or a town, this is still how many of the places look on the main street. It is these streets that I enjoy as they evoke the past and stand for the achievement of previous generations. I like the industrialness of these places, the big machines and the dust of production. The people that work here are masters of their trade. They have practical skills that only a few have in the west.

Indian Streets

It's winter so the temperature falls quickly as the sun goes down. This motley crew was gathered around a raging fire, chatting and keeping warm. One of them offered ganga after taking the pictures. I was little scared at first, they looked fearsome but they just laughed and carried on with what they were doing whilst I messed about with my tripod.

I regret not using flash, as mixed with a long exposure it could've added another dimension to the picture. I plan to go back, give them a copy of the photo each and if daylight, take their individual portraits. It'll be nice to do the fire shots again. Anybody has any suggestions on how to take a better shot here?

I love Indian streets at night, especially in photos. These lights make the street look other worldly. I'm not sure what Indian light's use? Sodium? The redness mixes well with the fluorescent lights.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Self portrait with me camera, self-portrait and portrait


The above was loaded for this competition. Link below.

Added a this 'self-portrait' because I feel that aren't enough photos on this site. Honest gov, it's a photo blog. Actually, it's not a true self-portrait as Steph, my girlfriend took it, under my guidance.

And this is the wonderful Steph. Halloween 2007.

Gujaratis, tops my list of friendly Indians

So far, I've received many small acts of genuine friendliness. These include the offer of tea, soft drinks and sometimes even some meals bought for me. Sometimes, there's no escaping this. 'This is Indian way, you are a guest, we must treat you.' I feel like I'm taking advantage but I'm not even allowed to buy a tea back for them.

In the streets people are curious. They ask me my name, 'which country/ from where?' and 'Are you married?' They smile and usually we shake hands. If their English is good, they want to find out more. Sometimes they joke but it's all good humoured. If they can't speak English, some try with Hindu or Gujarati but I only know 'hello' in these languages.

It's a refreshing change from some other parts of India where the 'tourist dollar' invites the worst of Indians to talk to the tourist.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Forget the mini, it's how many people you can fit in an autorickshaw.

Group taxi autorickshaws (there has to be a more catchy name than this) are slightly bigger than the autorickshaws you usually see within cities. These are intercity or intervillage rickshaws. Much cheaper and much more crowded than the ones in the cities.

In the one I took, there was the driver and three people in the passenger seat. Me and another guy shared the seat, whilst the third guy sat on the floor, reading a paper. Cramped is not he word!

In the back, two rows of seats opposite each other, should seat six but usually eight adults, plus anyone they can fit inbetween. That's countless kids and bits of adults. Well, that's the view from outside.

For me, it's the Delhi-Agra road that's king of fitting the most people in an autorickshaw. These had people hanging off the back and sides. How they manage to go with all those people, I really don't know.

Here's an another fun rickshaw sport.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Addicted to coke, again.

Having managed to not drink the evil stuff for many years (except with rum), I now have it daily. Taiwan broke me but India, in particular Gujarat (no beer!!!), has me ordering a bottle a day.

Perhaps it's its kill and clean properties that my stomach so desires.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Textiles? What do I know about Textiles?

Vanu, I think that's her name. It was tattooed on her arm. Anyway, she spoke English, which is useful, when you're in a remote village and you don't have any Indian language skills.

Here she's getting the thread ready for the weaving machine. I don't know what this is called. Something like the pre-weaving machine stage.

She and her husband, who was doing the weaving, were making table cloth type material.

Asking for directions and getting confused

I haven't got used to the Indian head shake. Is it yes? Is it no? Is it maybe?
Another confusing time is asking for directions. For example, 'Where's the Kutch Museum?'
I get a twisted hand movement that vaguely points in a direction. So I point in the direction that I think they mean but off course I don't get the headshake. So I feel that asking for directions isn't that helpful.

Here's an interesting link on Indians, though it doesn't answer the above.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Modi is the mask

A political aside, the mask is of Modi, a politician that has been causing a stir in Gujarat.

According to the TV and newspaper, he said that the murder of a political rival was just deserts. As you can imagine this has caused a storm, with people accusing him of being behind the murder.

As with many stories in India, it's difficult to get an understanding of it. These stories have been developing for years. The murder was about 5 years ago I believe. And there's counter argument upon counter argument.

Another story that's like this is the Nandigram incident (only know this story as there was a riot in Calcutta on the day I arrived and it was very difficult to get to my hotel). I believe this started this year. I think the story goes;

The communism govn of W Bengal wanted to create a Economic Free Zone. The locals were consulted and felt the move was a land grab. Somewhere in all this the Maoists got involved. So it was communism against Maoist. Things got nasty, people went missing, people fled their villages as family fought family.

The last thing to happen is that five graves have been discovered with 'burnt human bones'. They are believed to be those of missing people. The TV said that upto 45 people are missing. Sounds grim.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Bhuj; The Jats, the Rabanis and the Harijans

Picture: Harijan woman

Yesterday, I hired a rickshaw for half a day and toured some villages around Bhuj.

Most of the land around Bhuj is scrub but there are some farms too. These tended to be large wall-enclosed green oasises. A bit like farm estates. Yellow flowering kale (cabbage like plants) was everywhere. This crop is grown for animal feed. Also growing at the mo are cotton plants and papaya like plants.

The scrub was mostly short prickly shrubs, cacti and short grass. In places there was salt stained rocks and dry river beds. Unfortunately there was none of the classic cracked salt plains I was hoping to see. These are further north, so I'm told.

The villages have a mixture of people. There are Hindus, Muslims and tribe people. The latter included the Jats, the Rabanis and the Harijans.

The Jats are Muslim. In the village I visited, the main trade is milk producing. The village has many goats and some cows. They are very friendly and I was taken around to see families, women sewing and lastly, I was invited for a cup of pure milk tea. Life seem very slow but it was in the heat of the day.

The Rabanis seem to have the most elaborate jewellery, especially ear pieces. Many were dressed in black, though this isn't the only colour they wear. I was shown some stitch work that the women where doing. These were mainly head pieces. The cloth they worked looked modern and they used stitches and mirrors to add patterns to these. They are also very friendly, especially their children. Unfortunately, the women didn't want to be photographed. Their children did though. They loved the digital camera. Shoot and see it straight away. The magic of modern technology is never lost on children. Local expert, PJ Jethi, describes the Rabanis as 'a mystery. Their life style is totally different from any other tribe.' Many Rabanis are still nomad or semi nomad.

I only met one family of the Harijans. They are also very friendly. The old woman pictured above was a perfect model and didn't mind me fluffing around with my camera.

Here's a link for more detail on textiles crafts of Kutch.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Road by horn

As I sit here, at the back of an internet cafe in Bhuj, India, I can still hear the road. This is common as it's 'road by horn' in India. It's one of the three 'needs' for driving in India;

First you need good brakes
Second you need a good horn
Most importantly you need good luck.

The skilled Indian driver uses his horn repeatedly, sometimes tapping out a nasty tune other times fist down hard 'Get out of the F-ing way'. The horn can be anything from hello; hello - I'm overtaking; hello sir - want a lift; watch where you're going; come-on; hello gorgerous; and probably much more.

Horns have different sounds as well; there's the nasal sheep horn, the wet continuous fart horn, the angry pig horn, the angry man horn, the pup horn, the elephant roar and the train coming the tunnel horn.

I'm not sure what Indian nerves are like. Mine, have been shattered. They were shattered from day one and now the remains of my nerves get a workout each day.

If you ever come to India - bring ear plugs.

Ahmedabad, an underrated city

Another congested city was one thing the LP said about Ahmedabad and their former ruler describe it as 'the dusty city'.

But hidden away in the old city are the pols. Wonderous streets and alleyways that have a timeless quality to them. A pol means gate and comes from the sanskit word ____?

A pol is self contained community, with an entrance gate and guard room above. Some pols have secret doors and others are so hidden away in the maze of the old city that you'll be luck to find them. In the Hindu and Jain areas, most pols have a bird feeding tower as there so little room, there are no trees.

I love this area because each house is different, the doors, the windows and the more you look the more you see. Even some houses are built in different styles, with each floor representing a different style, perhaps helping an architect to know how old each floor is.
Jumma Masjid, Ahmedabad

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Pop India

Pop India will be my baby for the next few months

It's a photography project that will use materials, images and symbols of India to create modern art. I'll be based
in Gujarat, India.
The project starts in November.

Here's more details about the project

Take a culture that’s rich beyond most Western beliefs. Splice it with pop art, graphics, add some dada and that’s what Pop India aims to deliver. Images drenched in colour, style, mood, neither traditional nor modern, with a disregard of the documentary and a healthy disrespect for right or wrong.

The project is all about the image. Not a message, not a pretty sentiment, just playful images that at the end of the day are only photographs.
The project will be based in the Rann of Kutch, Gujarat, Western India. This is an area rich in tradition, tribally diverse and geographically unique, as well as isolated. People still wear and make wonderful clothes and these clothes reflect the area and their ancestors, being big on detail, texture and meaning. Traditional crafts still flourish, from block printing, to pottery, to embroidery, to batiks, all the way to ship building. The Rann is a vast salt plain. Hostile to most life and mutating from dried-out salt plains in the winter to a virtual island in the summer monsoon.

Using local materials, such as tika, posters, walls, block prints, henna, we aim to create unique environs that can be used as portrait settings. We plan to use these materials in a pop art fashion for example, a block print of an Indian goddess printed numerous times on a blue painted wall. This wall could then be used as a background to take traditional dressed people, but encouraged to pose in a fashion magazine style. The variations are endless.

India is everything. And everything will be reproduced in our photographs.

Vehicles: What road only has 5% cars?

And a speed limit of 80 kph but one of the most deadliest in the world and street hazards that include loose cows, sleeping dogs and rubble loaded zig-zagging donkeys.
Answer; India

Indian roads in three words; cacophonic, kaleidoscopic and madness. It's a shock to the organised westerner.

As a pedestian in Delhi, you get a taste of it. Horns!! horns!! horns!!! Loud, repeated, constant, sometimes hit to a beat; it's enough to shatter your nerves. Then the obstacles; weaving auto-rickshaws, small yellow and green vehicles that bee-line the roads, cutting you up and offering you an unwanted ride, and there's the man-powered version, the peddle rickshaws. 'Hello' means get out of the way and 'where you go?' is an other of a ride. Not to mention huge, horned cows that don't care, the dogs, herds of people, horse carts, human carts, vans, trucks, buses and even the odd car.

In Bhuj, at last

Well, I'm only about three and half weeks behind schedule. Visas problems and the like.

I'm here and I'll be here for the next few weeks.