Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Allo, one photo please!

These are the most frequently occurring utterances that I heard as I traversed along the western coastline from Hampi, much inland to Gokarna and then Goa. Deck up in some mismatched bright clothes and carry a big fancy camera, keep pointing it to people and you will know how both of them interact: some serious lens talk with those beautiful village made photogenic visages ready to pose as exotically, bringing out each emotion in every young wrinkle, depth and curve. Quite amusing, how people in public spaces get affected by camera lenses. The idea of being watched through a lens, as I hypothesized and kept speculating throughout the trip across varied reactions from people including the upfront refusal to be clicked and the sly sliding into the imagined frame, all of this generated some curiosity as to what these people be thinking of getting their photo clicked by someone who is not even going to give it to them, what happens of this picture, do people think it is safe or does it glorify them?
So, I take some space to narrate some anecdotal camera encounters (camera almost transforms into some magical parrot character!) and the above pasted pictures are also of those curious clever street models who very willingly got etched into visual history by me :) As we strutted in Hampi, so touristically well pruned and marked, boards spit recommendations of the 'Lonely Planet' and in a conservative town of ruins, streets spill out uber bohemian libertine dresses, you meet little Indian angels all clad in modest third world attire. The moment they see your camera, their eyes light up, the tidied expressions act much as the rouge, they know how to pose, they know where to stand, such composition friendly muses positioned all over!
While clicking old to young, white to black, tiny and big, the traditional Lambada tribe people and others, we met a shop owner in Gokarna who sells temple stuff. And as I clicked his picture, he fished out a tiny verbal memoir of his previous encounters with the camera, a 'URL' where you could see his photo and he also suggested how to best take his picture! On the other hand, old 'ajji' clad in Lambada costume promptly recited: "Allo, fifty rupees photo!"
As speculated, it is perhaps the tourism driven daily happenings of the place that translate clicking pictures into the acts of being published in some medium, also an appreciation of the 'exotic' value imbibed by the people of the place. Also, there are some who shy away, the panoptic gaze, feeling of being surveilled, of being shot to some undetermined limelight and put in front of thousands of unknown eyes somewhere else, the lack of control over the act.
To sum up, the past few days of lens talking have been delightful in the least, to plop yourself in the middle of the busy market, watch as some stop, some pose, some smile, the others squirm suspiciously, walk out of the frame, some plead and the rest start hollering in excitement, as if all those are waiting for one attempt at being celebrated and all you need is, "Allo, one photo please!"

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