I am presently in the process of creating a new web site focusing only on the stories and photographs I have taken during my travels. As I was going through tape after tape of footage, I just wanted to share a simple and special story. While in India, I was so fortunate enough to walk beside Amit Chadha who opened amazing doors of adventure for me. One day, he told me he had something planned that he thought I would love and sure enough, he was right! He took me to meet Mr. Chand who was taking black and white portraits of people using the same camera and process his grandfather used. Generation after generation passed down this love and talent, passed down this wooden camera weighing 50 pounds and dating back 150 years. While I was walking/rushing around carrying an assortment of cameras and lenses, here was Mr. Chand with such a peaceful presence… focus, put care and attention into each step and let it all emerge in its own time. He recreated for me that magic that drew me in years ago when I first started with a darkroom in my basement. Photography has come such a long way but for one moment of time, I was privileged to slow down, remember and honor all that came before.
I turn on the news to hear how sweltering hot it is right now here along the East Coast. (Thanks to the news, I am in the know!) This is followed by stories of traffic jams caused by the multitude of people seeking relief from beaches, fountains and lakes. We are told over and over to, “Drink plenty of water!” All of this brought to mind that I for one, need to be much more conscious of how I use water and how fortunate I am to have it so easily available.
Night after night, images appear of oil transforming entire areas of our southern coast into barren, black covered beaches, obliterating wild life and the basic livelihood of so many. Religions use water for sacramental transitions – baptisms, funerals, etc. Maybe we should return to this sense of approaching water as the sacred, life giving and sustaining gift that it is. While I was in India, I saw how precious water was for people. A woman only had a paint can of water to wash her son. Bowls were lined up to catch the rain and old men would walk distances just to get to a pump while others would use water to soothe wounds.
So, as I go through this heat spell (and hopefully, long after) it is my goal to slow down and be much more thoughtful and not take for granted something so precious.
In the streets of India, stories abound. I attempted to provide a glimpse of the sheer variety, beauty, struggles, determination and ingenuity that is so present. Dentist and barbers can be found side by side on street corners. Monkeys, camels, elephants and sacred cows are a common site amidst the trucks and motorcycles. Markets are teaming with goods and local produce. The streets are so dynamic and call one to explore and become immersed in its rhythms.
The chanting of the mantra, “Hare Krishna” swelling in the temple, goldenrod flowers placed at the feet of dieties, saffron robbed little boys all present a feast for the senses. Spirituality is integral to the identity of India. Several weeks ago, the New York Times covered the Hindu religious festival known as the Kumbh Mela where a, “staggering outpouring of humanity” bathed in the holy waters of the Ganges. Hinduism and Buddhism originated here. After Indonesia, India has the next highest population of Muslims. In this land, Christianity, Jainism, Sikhism and Zoroastrianism also lend their voices and beliefs to this diverse spiritual center. At the very moving memorial to Mahatma Gandhi, the inscription of “He Ram” meaning “Oh God” which is said to be his last words (but with some controversy) are placed at the end of a black marble slab which marks the spot where Gandhi was cremated following his assassination in 1948.
Sala is the name given to the formal prayer of Islam. During five periods of the day which are determined by the movement of the sun, devout muslims observe the ritual of bowing down to Allah in formal prayer.
For those practicing Hinduism, flowers serve as an important offering made to the gods. They symbolize the good that has blossomed within. Flowers are placed at the feet of the statue of the deity and this vigraha (image of the deity devoid of ill effects) is showered with flowers.
Many different paths with the same purpose to connect and honor.
“Namaste” is used by those in India to both greet and say goodbye. The meaning is: The God/Goddess Spirit in me recognizes and honors the God/Goddess Spirit in you. While saying this, one bows to the other. I found this to be such a beautiful way to really be totally with the other person and the Indian people that I met were masters at this! I was a total stranger and yet when I approached someone requesting the take their portrait, I was never turned away but welcomed in.
When I travel, I find myself constantly drawn to photograph the people. The camera becomes the connection between hearts and eyes when language fails. Through the lens, I saw incredible beauty and character and we always shared a smile. “Namaste” became much more than a word.I hope you enjoy the video below.