William Vázquez is an advertising, portrait & documentary photographer based in New York, USA.

Image backstory, India "The girl in purple"

Starting a little series of how I created certain photo with some back story.

I was in India on assignment working for Abbott creating imagery that illustrated their social responsibility efforts in India. I was photographing, clinics, people, milk collection, farmers, farming, and landscapes. I had free reign to photograph whatever I wanted, but the images had to tell the stories that the client wanted to highlight. There was no specific shot list just concepts.

  • Milk collection in rural areas
  • A local NGO's efforts on locating and helping women with gestational diabetes
  • Women's healthcare in rural India
  • A local NGO that provided access to clean water
  • Medicine distribution in rural India

Its not a very long list but its very daunting when you consider the process that the images have to go through before they are selected. The photographs have to feel serendipitous, show the best of India and its people, show that you are in India, simple uncluttered backgrounds, and be able to use the images in different ways. For example social media, in print, horizontal, vertical, on a cover, leave space for copy, and the list goes on. So its a lot to think about when you are deciding on an image to take, framing shots, and clicking that shutter. Plus there is no client going through this process with you and sharing in the struggles to create the images. Its my problem, and my problem alone.

In these series of photos. I was hanging around a clinic hoping to create some images of women at the clinic. The day I am there was a super slow day. The story of my life. I am either too early or too late. There were only two patients and the photos were not ideal. So I waited, and I waited hoping some other women would show up. Also it was getting later in the morning and once the light gets too high its really harsh. Not great light for images of people. Then these three girls appeared through the gate, one of them was coming to the clinic to meet with her mother.

They stopped in front of the wall to wait. I approached them and started a conversation through my interpreter. I asked if I can photograph them. They said yes, but they were very shy and would not look at the camera. I decided that I would need to separate them, and I figured my best chance was with the girl in purple. I said that I wanted to photograph them separately, but I started with the girl in purple. Just in case they decided to quit on me.

At first she wanted to be photographed with her friends and was calling them over, but I reassured her that it will be quick and I will photograph her friends after her.

This is where we started giving me a not so friendly face plus the light was a little hard. I wanted her to turn into the light a bit so her eyes would light up. Also her friend's shadow was in the shot so I had to move her away a bit.

After I got her friend to move, I was able to focus on my subject. She was shy in the sense that she wasn't able to look at the camera and smile at the same time. So I spoke to her friend and asked a question about the girl in purple. I think I asked if she was always this shy. She replied and this caused my subject to turn towards her and smile. She sort of smiled, she was trying her best not to smile. I shot about 30 frames of everyone including the final shot, and the whole encounter was probably 5 minutes.

Waiting for that "perfect moment" would make these projects go on for weeks and no guaranty of success. So I have to step in and control what I can by being selective, have a clear vision, and influencing what is going on in the image so I capture the best out of people in the time I have.

I think this image turned out great. She made me work for it a bit. The light was beautiful, as well as all the colors. Yes, it doesn't obviously feel like it was shot in India, but with the elements taken together it still gives that sense.


Canon 5D MarkIII, Canon 24-105 f4L lens