Some highlights from the projects of 2016
"Wait you are going to be driving that thing???" My wife's reaction to my plan. Most everyone particularly Indians I spoke to on my plans would have similar reactions.
More than a year ago Greg a friend and fellow photographer came up with an idea. Lets drive the length of India in an auto rickshaw, and we can fund raise for charities that we support. (An auto rickshaw is a three wheeled under powered vehicle used in India and other countries as an inexpensive way to get around cities. Totally not meant to do what we were going to be doing to it.) So after more than a year in the planning we departed Shillong along with 70 other rickshaw teams with similar insane ideas on a 2,400 mile journey to Kochi in a vehicle that went no faster than 30 miles and hour, has no windows, and broke down on a regular basis. Along the way we faced terrible roads, monsoon, flat tires, beyond insane traffic, sweated profusely, poor food, burned out pistons, lack of sleep, the hunt for spare parts, mosquitoes, suicidal bus drivers, roadside chai, and an amazing journey through India's magnificent landscapes. The best part, meeting people all along the way. Indians who would drop whatever they were doing to say hello, ask questions, shake our hand, take selfies with us, help load our rickshaw on a truck, bring us chai, help us find a mechanic, and treat us like celebrities. All of this with a huge smile on their faces with genuine amazement and happiness to see us.
Our fundraiser is still open until 9/1/2016. Every little bit goes a long way in helping orphans in India and Nepal. The main reason I did this was to fund raise for orphans. As cool as the trip was it was about doing what I can to help on making these kids lives a little better.
Please help me help them.
Here are some photos of our Adventure.
A big thank you to Ian and Sam. I met them in Guwhati airport getting a taxi to Shillong. We ended up traveling together during the whole adventure. They stuck by us when our Rickshaw was sick, towed us a few times, snapped photos of us, and Ian just loved to get on the ground to take apart our engine when it needed fixing. They made the trip even more awesome. Great people.
I am always looking for ways to combine what I do as a photographer to help others. Working for NGO's is one way I help, by bringing awareness through my photography which in turn helps the NGO's raise funds. Every few years I find a challenge to do and fundraise directly. In 2013 it was a trek to Everest Basecamp. I raised almost $7,000. This time around I am driving an Auto Rickshaw 2,100 miles from Shillong, India to Kochi, India with a friend and fellow photographer Greg Kinch. Its a bit crazy but it should be super interesting, fun, a serious challenge, and the best part I get to generate funds for a few NGOs like Families for Children, Kids of Kathmandu, and Cool Earth. My goal is to raise $5,000. Which will be split evenly by the three charities. These funds will go towards direct support of the children. Please support this endeavor!
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
The best part of what I do as a photographer? Getting to know people that I would probably never, ever encounter if it wasn't for being a photographer. Meeting people from different cultures and spending some time with them, eating with them, drinking tea with them really keeps things in perspective for me, and I find immensely enjoyable. I am lucky. Here I am getting to know and sharing a bit of tea with Abhimand a bit before I photograph him earlier this year on an assignment for Abbott. He was on his way to deliver milk from his cows to the milk receiving center in Shirdi, India about five hours east of Mumbai.
"Smile!" but look at me.
When on assignment I am sent with specific requirements on what ideas the images are supposed to convey, as well as look and feel. "Oh, and make sure there is room for type! but not sure of exactly where it will go." So as random as it feels sometimes, I get mandates like "go photograph pregnant women in India with gestational diabetes." One of the most important aspects is authenticity. Keeping the images "real" is probably the biggest challenge. Its much easier when things are planned and working with models. You can control the look and the feel of the images that way. Although that can have its pitfalls when it comes to looking authentic. Working with real people it can be hit or miss, of course being a professional it is expected that there is more hit than miss. You can tell people stand there and look this way, and that way, but how do you convey an idea you want them to express in their faces and body language? This becomes particularly problematic with cultural and language barriers. Many times I show up at a persons home in a rural area of another country that is off the grid like an alien from another planet that just got off a spaceship. Although my visit is usually pre-arranged. Most people have no clue about, why am I there, what I am doing, why am doing it, why is it important, and what is the point of it all. Not to mention I am probably the first foreigner that they have ever seen up close let alone interacted with, and a man no less which can be an issue in very conservative countries. Also I want to take lots of photos over here, over there, doing this, doing that....I get 20 minutes tops before people start getting tired of the whole thing. Plus they have work to do!
So whats a photographer to do? Sit down and have tea, share a moment, get to know each other a bit, and do more than hope for the best.
Stories, from the road: "My father is a barber, my grandfather was a barber, I want something else. Although I am very talented. Abbott has given me an opportunity to be something else."
"Want a haircut?"
A rare quiet moment in Mumbai. Most of the time the buses are filled beyond capacity. Love the colors.
It's all about the eyes, smiling and unafraid of the camera.