Tag Archives: travel

Is Photography limiting our appreciation of the real world?

In January 2017, my parents came to see me in Mumbai. As a family, we have always enjoyed travelling and almost 20 years ago, I came here for the first time. I remember the open-top tour bus we were on going around the city from one stop to the other, keeping to our time as there are only so many hours in a day. We saw the Hanging Gardens that homes a boot-house, for my 8-year old self, it was something out of a Lewis Carroll book; the magnificent Gateway of India surrounded by the old and the new Taj Hotel, the Marine Drive, the museums in South Mumbai and many more sites that I don’t remember very well. For anyone who has grown up in India watching Bollywood movies, Mumbai is special; there is an instant relationship that I built growing up, that Mumbai was where one would go if they had a dream that needed a touch of reality. The Bollywood movies did, in fact, romanticise the city then and continue to do today. The tapori language became a cool benchmark after Aamir Khan’s Rangeela, and the non-Mumbai folks assumed that seeing celebrities on the streets would be such an everyday affair, that no one would really turn around and look at them twice, cause you’d probably see another in a few steps, right! Every kid in the nineties knew about Essel World and The Waterkingdom in Borivali, due to the overzealous ads Zee TV aired in between shows like Hum Paanch, Disney Hour, etc. So, Mumbai has been, for me, a big deal.

Two decades since then, flipping through the photo album reminds me of those times very vividly. It is not just the fact that looking at a printed photograph is more tactile, more physical and hence more real, for me, it is also the limited nature of film rolls that played a crucial part in all this. With only 36 shots worth of Kodak Gold in the 35mm automatic film camera, one had to be careful, to only make the best image and choose the best scenario, and make the process of photographing landscapes, portraits, street, buildings etc., all the more relevant. Before you could make an image, you had to first see, look and experience. The judgment of making images was more critical, more thought-through. To choose between a photograph of a family portrait and a photograph of a beautiful building was a tough one, as you only had so many expendable slots on the film.

As ‘digital’ has stormed the photography landscape in the past decade, the cost of creating a digital reproduction of the ‘real’ has reduced to a one-time investment – that of buying the camera. As a result, collectively humanity is producing more images every day than the hundred years put together before the turn of the century. The internet is jam-packed with images harbouring hashtags like #foodporn, #selfie, #photooftheday in their captions. Add to the mix that digital photography is a mode of instant gratification, it becomes evident why tourist sites are filled with selfie sticks, digital cameras and camera-phones.

Referring back to our trip a couple of decades ago, we were excited about going to The Elephanta Caves, off the mainland of Mumbai and an hour ferry ride from Albert Bandar in South Mumbai. We couldn’t make it then as we, unfortunately, picked the one day in the week that tourism is closed on the site. However, this time around, 20 years later, we were prepared. Elephanta Island is a UNESCO heritage site and has cave-sculptures made centuries ago, honouring Lord Shiva. If you ever have the pleasure of visiting the site, you’d see visitors in hundreds, local sellers selling ‘authentic’ Elephanta artefacts, many fearless monkeys and camera phones – all this everywhere.

As I go around looking at the architecture, the meticulously built sculpture and reading the very few placards placed around the caves (thank God!) I realise that many who have taken the time out from their schedule were more interested in taking selfies and recording the site through their phone moving from one sculpture to the other, or rather from one photo-spot to the other. No doubt, photography is great to record but sorting through hundreds of these images to analyse the craftsmanship of the cave-sculpture is going to be a far cry. It was then that I felt nostalgic for the pre-digital age when you had to look, see and experience before you would make an image as opposed to now when the experience entails taking multiple photographs in the hope that one would be social-media-worthy. Photography, I feel is limiting our appreciation of the real-world, we are so obsessed with the recording and documentation aspect of it that we are failing to see the underlying beauty or the lack thereof in the real world. The appreciation is (more?) valid in the real time, in the three-dimensional world, rather than a two-dimensional screen reminiscing on a lazy afternoon when the only thing to do is flip through old photos in your phone gallery. At sites like The Elephanta Caves, we fail to interpret the design, the history, the motivation to create and therefore the art, by keeping a primal focus on taking photos that suggest, “we were there.” What this lack of appreciation is slowly leading to is a reduction in our capacity to understand culture and history, and perceiving things superficially. If the image of a sculpture is just an add-on in a self-portrait, its essence as an art-form gets diminished and if the only motivation to go see the next one is to get another photographic document, then what’s the point of taking the trouble to go out anyways?

I’d be lying if I say that I was always away from this pack, on the contrary, I feel that it has taken me a long time and many missed opportunities of appreciating the art and design of these sites. Since the realisation, I leave my camera at home and go out with the sole intention of seeing and looking, not documenting.

Through my photography, I continuously attempt to ask the question whether a photograph is a document of the real or not, whether the representation of what lies in front of the lens an accurate measure of reality. There are many academic debates on the topic and it is very interesting that photography is the undisputed champion in the reproduction of reality. My only counter is, photography undoubtedly is the champion of a representation of reality, but reproduction… maybe not.

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Traveling with a good companion

“The whole object of travel is not to set foot on foreign land; it is at last to set foot on one’s own country as a foreign land” – Gilbert K. Chesterton.

On the Foreigner's Footsteps

On the Foreigner’s Footsteps

Travelling is fun. Travelling alone is even better. You’re the master of your own fate. YOU decide which place you want to go to, YOU decide how long you’re willing to stay there and YOU decide what you do while your stay. I have been on quite a few lonesome trips in my life and it might sound ‘sad’ for some who have yet to experience the pleasure of the same.

I have traveled to quite a few places in India. Places I’ve been to, have offered me chances of partying all night long and/or relaxing for the better half of the week. It all depends where you are heading to and how you intend to make the most of the day.

Where ever I’ve been to, Black Dog Scotch Whisky has always given me company. The perfect companion, whether you are out partying with your friends or sipping it from a glass at a beach reading your favorite novel. It has the versatility and the perfect blend that ensures you good times. I carry a bottle of Black Dog and my Whisky glass if I plan to head to a secluded area where all I look for is peace and some time to unwind and relax. If it is about hanging out near pubs and in cities, Black Dog is well known and easily available brand. There is something about this drink that does not let me complete my journey without an instance of it’s taste on my tongue at least a couple of times.

BD TGR_Easel 3x2-opt2

 

Would it not be the perfect day to return home a stranger? Travelling has the potential to teach things that lie beyond classrooms – Experiences!

Disclaimer – The content is meant only for people above the age of 25. All views and mentions here are personal.

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What makes Goa, Goa.

So, I was in Goa for the third time. And this time, as always, it didn’t disappoint.

There’s something about Goa. Yes! True. Not that it’s the most beautiful, not that it’s the most isolated, not that it’s the most traveller-friendly, but there’s something about it. The last two times I was there, I went as a traveller, went to places that were a ‘must-go’ and suggested by many. However, it was different this time.

We were there to let go and have fun. We managed to make it to the Sunburn Festival, Asia’s biggest dance-music festival. And yes, it was epic. 3 days of madness, fatigue, dancing and cheering. It was as promised, the best 3 days of the week. The fact that Goa has been hosting Sunburn for over 5 years now, in itself is huge! The popularity and the moral freedom that Goa offers is a mind-refresher.

For a change, you see everyone having fun, worrying less about the mundane and enjoy merriment in the way they want. And this liberty is hard to achieve in many parts of India. With this liberty, what I realised is that the mindset changes, not just for the teenagers, for everyone. And then, it gets safe, safe for everyone, not just for teenagers! 🙂

Goa is the kind of place where Bob Marley would be most comfortable to settle in, if he were to stay in India full time. The place is, in modern-terms ‘chill’. Quoting the Bacardi song below, it pretty much sums up why a lot of people head to Goa for some ‘chill’ time,

“Be, what you wanna be,taking things the way, they come,
nothing is as nice as finding paradise…”

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The insight lady.

There’s a certain class of people who make a living only on tourism, selling jewelleries shipped in from Bijapur. And they operate only during the prime season time. I asked this lady who was setting up her store early in morning, what do they do once the ‘season’ is over. On that, she replied, “Kya karenge babu, ghar jayenge! Baarish ka mausam aa jayega toh yahan thodi na reh sakte hain”. (What can we really do, we’ll head home. Once it starts raining, we cannot stay here). Trust me, when she said this, it was against my “holiday spirit”, but what can one really do to help them out apart from buying from them, the cheap knock-off jewelleries. And yes, if you’ve had no experience at bargaining, well, good luck! You’ll get ripped off beyond belief. I had a chance of talking to another street hawker at Candolim Beach, and she realised I’m from her home state and offered me a discount on the product saying, “Bhai, aapke liye bas 500 rupiye mein” (Brother, for you it’s only 500 bucks). I didn’t buy the what she was offering but received from her quite the Marketing 101 lecture. She told me that she’ll sell off the same product to any foreigner at not less than Rs. 2000/- And don’t you think that I was getting the real deal. I bet the actual selling price of the product was not more than 150-180/- But that’s the way it works!

Underneath the rooftop of imagination is what I like to refer to this one as.

Underneath the rooftop of imagination is what I like to refer to this one as.

This place would have been entirely different had it been a Wednesday. It gets crazy!

 

 

 

 

Wednesday’s flea market at Anjuna is pretty well known. And it’s pretty insane! From a wide range of clothes to variety in music by “Goa Gill” to probably the only place where you can find assorted collection of “things” that can help you get “high”. Pretty amazing if you ask me. It brings together people from all around the world! The December season in Goa is probably the most waited for. The price hikes are everywhere and there’s exaggeration beyond belief. But you won’t mind it.Mark Twain once said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness”. The more I travel and experience, the more I find meaning in the statement he made. The more becomes obvious and true as the time flies by. I’ve been to quite a few places in India and someday I wish to see it all, every single location on my country’s map has got to be a ‘known’ place to me.

 

I would like to be a part of Goa someday in some possible way, maybe own a restaurant by the beach, or buy a shack for moi-self or maybe just enjoy my retirement exploring places and returning home to a place called ‘Goa’. Ah! Wishful thinking.

More travel pictures at my photography blog – Shot, Framed & Hanged. Have a great week ahead 🙂

Camino Tequila, Señor?

Care for a smoke, or maybe a dozen?

Care for a smoke, or maybe a dozen?

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Street shop selling the self-claimed ‘finest’ shawls.

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