photojournalism

Northern Images

I miss the wait, the anticipation of developing my film when I return home from a long photo shoot. A hotel room is my darkroom. It doesn’t smell or feel the same. Too bad. I’m posting another loose edit of images, all from Varanasi (Banaras) and were shot after my last photo post.

I enjoy photographing street life. People in their everyday groove, doing what they do, going about their business. Of course my presence alone is enough to alter the moment. It’s such a game. I don’t stand much of a chance of blending in and I’m certainly not going to hide or sneak up on people, so I usually work with boredom. If I hang out long enough people lose interest and move on. Maybe they think I’m inept and can’t operate my camera? Who knows?

Along with street images, I’ve focused a great deal of my time and energy on the skilled workers, primarily traditional crafts people, in each region documenting differences and similarities in process and product. It’s been quite the education. I have to credit Bishaka, our wonderful travel companion, for the majority of that education and access. Without her help I would never have seen or met many the crafts people in my photos.

Having seen the Southern saree weaving process and product in detail, the opportunity to contrast and compare the famous Northern Banaras Saree was a must. They’re made primarily in the Muslim areas of Varanasi and seem to have more flash and dimension than the Kanchipuram textiles, which are lovely in their own right. The silk is beautiful and the weaving, dying and design process is impressive. Unintentionaly (to some degree) we also gained the opportunity to witness the what is becoming the death of the hand-crafted saree: Chinese automated saree weaving machines using synthetic materials. A traditional saree takes about 9-11 days to produce and requires a team of skilled workers. The machine saree take about an hour, pumping out 8-12 per day and needs only two technicians to run the operation. They’re cheaper and the marketing behind these synthetics is strong. How can the traditional producer compete? It’s a question that we continue to discuss, with little expectation of a good answer. Experiencing the mechanized process was important.

This morning was spent walking the streets of Mumbai, including the Arabian Sea coastal drive. It’s a giant cosmopolitan center with an overly-apparent Western influence. Although it’s a humid heat in Mumbai, the 92 F heat is a welcomed 25 degrees cooler than Varanasi. Yes, we were enjoying 117 F degree days in Varanasi. At that point you don’t care if it’s “dry” or “humid” you just burn. We’ll shoot a little bit more this evening and then prepare for the long series of flights home.

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One response

  1. Jenny W.

    Man, it’s been fun seeing it all chronicled here. The images are lovely…. so lovely. Can’t wait to hear more about it all. I think you’re back at UC already this week, right? That’s nuts. What a culture shock!

    June 23, 2009 at 8:50 am

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