Photographing Worry And Wisdom In India


The look of a life very much lived in the eyes of this dignified man in Chennai, India


I made this photo in Chennai (i.e., Madras), India. I noticed this gentleman while visiting a small village, the building of which my mother had helped to finance, years earlier.

I noticed him in the village chapel/meeting room. It was a simple matter to ask him to move, not far from the open doorway, into an area bathed in lovely, soft light.

He looked like a kindly chap and I wanted, as always, to make a life-affirming image.

He certainly wore the appearance of a life lived and I couldn't help but be aware of the worry and world weariness that seemed to be etched into his face.

It reminds me of the notion that wisdom is a mixture, in equal measure, of intelligence and experience. And this gentleman's experience seemed to be well earned indeed.

Brass Elephant

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Do You Critique Your Own Photos?

I love the delicate tonality evident in the wrap worn around his body and the surrounding background.

Notice how the ruffled shape of the wrap around the neck helps to frame his face.

I’m really glad I chose a warm tone black and white rendering for this image. I love the way the textural qualities in the gentleman’s beard and eyebrows have been highlighted by that choice.

Are you in the habit of critiquing your own photos? It’s a good practice that goes far beyond a simple like or unlike rating.

To improve your photography it’s very helpful to recognize what it is you’re doing well.

This process should see you continue to incorporate those elements or that approach into more photos, more often.

Likewise it’s important to identify technical errors and work to resolve them. Great technique is useful as it allows the compositional, narrative and emotive qualities in our photos to shine through.

Your camera is not a barrier, but a passport that allows you to interact with people and places, at a more personal and profound level, than you otherwise would.

But to make such experiences tangible you first need to understand how to use your camera.

If well taught one or two lessons are really all you need. And you’ll be amazed at how empowering that whole process can be.

A portrait of a young boy, with his father watching on, in front of their store in Kolkata, India.

What do you think the relationship between the two people in the above photo is?

I can tell you that they are father and son. I found them at father’s little shop in Kolkata. I approached and ask if I might make a photo of the two of them. The father declined, but gestured that it was okay to photograph his son.

I’m not sure if the son was all that keen on the idea. He looked very sad. I wondered if he’d been ticked off my his dad, moments earlier, or if, perhaps, he was melancholy by nature.

Either way I’m really happy with the result you see here. I feel the photo is narrative rich and an interesting exploration of the Human Condition, a theme that drives my portrait photography.

In fact the original image contained some quite vivid colors and shinny surfaces on the chip and lolly bags you can see hanging down from a beam in the front of the store.

I had to work quite hard on the desktop to bring down the brightness of those highlights.

However, it was the decision to convert the image into black and white that made the biggest difference.

No longer were the bright, happy colors in the background at odds with the emotion in the young mans eyes.

Putting the background out of focus, in addition to further deemphasizing those bright colors and tones in the background, changed the relationship you’d expect to see between father and son.

By rendering the father out of focus, through a very shallow Depth Of Field, and by moving the son much closer to the camera I’ve elevated the young man’s importance and, perhaps, his power in this photo.

There’s so much going on in your own photos that you probably don’t realize. My advice is to pick out a few images that you like and spend a minute or so analyzing each of them.

You might be surprised at just how good a photographer you really are. At the very least you’ll see potential, which you might like to investigate further.

Photography really is a great way by which we can document and experience our time on this earth.

Life Is The Search For What’s Beautiful

Beauty surrounds us. We just have to slow down, take a breath and look. And we have to learn to look with more than our eyes.

Our eyes are simply one end of a viewing funnel and it's our choice as to whether that funnel ends at our mind or our heart.

One will try to rationalize and make sense of things while the other will simply see and feel.

Likewise, as photographers, we have the choice as to whether the purpose of our camera is to gather as much information as possible or to open ourselves up to the world around us.

Empathy will allow us to better understand the journey others experience and help to concentrate our mind on our own life's purpose.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru