Sadhu in Varanasi images - 56/1.2 & 35/1.4

Started 2 months ago | Discussions thread
yrc4 Forum Member • Posts: 64
Re: Organised photo shoot business/pics for money etc.

deednets wrote:

Babu K wrote:

yrc4 wrote:

I like them especially because they’re fully aware of your presence. BTW, the question of posed shots vs stealthy has haunted the practice of photography from the very day the first cameras were brought to India in the 19th century. In fact, the use of cameras by European officials and civilians first, then later by traveling native photographers who would go from village to village with their large format cameras and elaborate studio tents and props has had a deep influence on how people react to cameras all over India. Read a fine book called the History of Photography in India to get a sense of this. Also look at the amazing work of Raghubir of the great photographers of the country. Some of his work on Varanasi is on the internet.

With the advent of camera phones the Indian attitude to photography has changed enormously. Most Indians have mobiles, and they're all photographing like there's no tomorrow. I remember 10 or 20 years ago often being told off by watchmen not to photograph fun fairs or even some fancy new building, as they were suspecting I had some nefarious motive. Now it hardly matters. On the other hand, sometimes it's hard to do stealth photography, as the moment you point a camera in someone's direction, they will strike a happy pose, basically ruining the shot - even if they just want to be nice.

Sadhus, especially in places like Varanasi, are usually very eager to pose, afterwards often asking for 'baksheesh'. In Kathmandu, there are many fake sadhus, who just put on some outlandish dress to attract the attention of tourists and consequently a photo fee.

You sound like you have a deeper insight into all matters Indian!

I am also aware of those "fake" Sadhus, like there is only genuine in the West? My take on "fake" or not is not an easy one.

Here is how I try - possibly partially in vain - to be genuine and at the same time not make a fool out of myself:

I ALWAYS talk to the people first, typically sit down so this never is a fleeting "visit".

  • Sadhus live on donations only, so asking for bakshees might be a legitimate one as not every foreigner knows how the system works.
  • NONE of the guys in those photos asked for donations. I did however offer to buy them a chai. "Them" as singular one after the other, they weren't part of any group.
  • I guess we all have our theories about how the world ticks. My theory is that a lot of fake disintegrates if you are prepared to invest some time into an encounter.

Note that I also donate money to beggars that appear genuine to me. Ai am of course aware of organised begging but leprosy is what it is - and life simply can't be just groovy when some limbs, feet of fingers are missing. If this then still is fake so be it and let it be their happy day.

I DO NOT shoot poverty and don't shoot human suffering.

Hope this clarifies a few things?

I hope that you are not misconstruing my comments on your fine pictures.  I think that in the portraits you shared it is clear that you interacted with the people you photographed.  And, better still you do not objectify them.  My point was to suggest some reading on how people in India interact/respond to cameras so that it could enrich your own craft.  As for the question of poverty and inequality, it is there for all to see in India and in most parts of the world.  The main issue for many including me is not the fact that people photograph the poor; but how we do it, what kinds of images we make, and for what ends.

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