Turned on, tuned in, and no dropout

19 May 2017

Life’s filled with fascinating characters, and one of the things I like best about travel photography is the opportunity to meet some of these people. You run into them in the most unexpected places. Some of these encounters you get to photograph, others are memorable simply because of the pleasurable time spent, the human connection, the interesting chat.

One of our Shoot Directors was on a reconnaissance mission in Gujarat recently. He spends a lot of time hanging out in tiny villages and rural settings, seeking out new photography opportunities — often for our India private photography tour clients — and he told me the backstory behind the sassy farmer you see in the photo above.

“This farmer is from the Ahir community, a pastoral tribe in Gujarat (notice the bracelet on his wrist). He was one of these guys who loves being photographed… a persistent fellow who spent at least an hour trying to coax me into shooting him. So keen was he that he even turned himself into an impromptu guide, abandoning his precious flock of sheep to his son’s charge as they started drifting out of the village.

Makes a nice change to have subjects asking to be photographed: usually of course, us photographers are the ones doing the asking.

“Makes a nice change to have subjects asking to be photographed: usually of course, us photographers are the ones doing the asking. The problem was that I was too busy working with village families at home with their livestock, or capturing entire families heading out with their sheep and cattle in the morning. Dramatic stuff that I didn’t want to miss.

“Finally, when the commotion died down, I found myself some shade under a massive banyan tree near the village temple. To my surprise, this farmer joined me there, asking if I was free to shoot him.

“Well, the sheep had gone, the people had gone, but I was fresh out of ideas on how I should shoot him. That was when I noticed the radio he was holding. Chatting, it soon became apparent that the radio was to him what mobile phones are to us — a way to keep in touch with the world and his favourite music go-to when he was out with his sheep. I also realised that the pink wall of the temple would make a great backdrop for his portrait, weathered and grimy as he was.

“The only problem was — he would not let go of his radio! When I tried to take it away, he demurred and put it around his neck with a mock-challenging “so what are you gonna do about it now?” look. So that’s when I hit the shutter.

“And the twist in my tale: This all happened around the time soon after Trump’s nomination was announced. Believe it or not, this shepherd was tuned-in enough to tell me that Americans were a strange bunch and would go on to elect the man their leader. True story!”

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