I had observed the interesting scene from the upstairs for over ten minutes (I would have had no idea about it had the security guy—after I had already taken a couple of shots—not told me it was quite invitingly odd for a person to stand at one place and keep staring like that for fifteen minutes) before figuring out what to do about that. Luxury cars on the sale show at an open showroom at the bay of the largest shopping mall in Delhi.
Down there were people of all walking speeds—some looked casually at the show as they walked and passed on by; some streamed on for cares outside of my field of vision without even caring to cast a glance at it to find business there; some lingered there with no obvious reason with the long-staring patience of a chronically unlucky angler or of a seasoned detective with nothing to detect or a weathered photographer without a camera whose business all in the wide world is to stare at people buying cars; every now and then some young boys and girls from pre-earning ages to a couple of years into working strayed excitedly for a while into the bay and posed, often pouting their lips or displaying a broad smile from ear to ear out of nowhere, in front of the cars (not very close to those otherworldly things they are not so confident to dream of) for a photograph or a selfie before they disappear in a minute or so; a few stuck around there, climbing in and out of the cars, as if in a virtual test drive at the busy bay, posing for the photographer who took photographs of whoever came behind the wheels; leggy beautiful salesgirls in body-hugging black shirts, skirts and semi-seethrough leggings were busy briskly plying about their business with glossy formalities in their hands and the young salesmen—apparently perfunctorily but immense patience—were talking with or explaining things to inquirers and those who hand the bank in their pockets while their companions where checking the cars nearby.
Now I had what to do—I set the camera: 1 sec exposure, f/16, ISO 100. To “ghost out” the movers and blur the lingerers a bit to superimpose the passage of time on the scene. I trained the camera, focused it on one of the headlights, and while the shutter button was in the midst of responding to my pressure and milliseconds before it fired the camera, the mall blacked out, but the shutter button continued and the camera obeyed.
Accidentally the result was interesting, though it was more than just a bit too dark, with the headlights looking like two pairs of monster doe-eyes glistening in a totally dark world, and the ghosts of the relatively fast movers had disappeared in the unhauntably dark shadows. I would have missed it during the blackout if I had not set the exposure down that long, and yes, luckily the aperture of that much high value. I decided that I could compensate for the underexposure in post-production. Yes with some greening grains.
Here I have turned up the exposure demonstering the doe-eyes to reveal the human business going on there though still in the dark.
He was an interesting character in the surrounding I found him in. What he was dressed in, how he moved, how he walked, how he bore his body, how he sat, what he did, where he was. I was immediately interested, and the interest remained alive for the whole while (the thirty or forty minutes) we were almost next to each other. My balls were not big enough for that much close proximity😁😂😅 to take a shot without asking him first. I have had quite a few dramatic experiences (which are quite a lifetime’s adventure not to be repeated, to some people) in my short photographic journey. Earlier that very day, some Myanmarese policemen made me to delete some photographs they did not want me to take back into India. The Indian Border Security Force (BSF) personnel at the border entry gate had also made me to deleted five invaluable photographs. Deleting them was like undergoing an abortion.
Photographically a rude and aggressive person, I don’t like most of my photographs taken after communicating with my street and found subjects. Something is usually lost from the situation in the photograph. If we both are available for a long enough talk to establish sort of a contextually required mutual understanding, I like (and sometimes prefer) talking with them. That is a different aesthetics and the subject behaves differently, in a more relaxed mood.
That day we were not available for such a walk-up talk, but he was too close and aware of my presence and every movement I made, and I did not want to regret not having photographed him. I requested him. He immediately smiled broadly. That was something I had not seen in the last 30 minutes or so, and that totally changed the scene. I lost something forever, and gained something unexpected. I photographed his smile. I still miss his face without that beautiful smile. That was quite something.
Legs splayed out carefree in a care-wearied world, he was beautiful seated on the dusty pavement between a highway and the Kangla outer moat one late afternoon in mid-January. He became conscious of me when I had taken a few shots of him—he shifted uncomfortably where he sat and took up a balled-up towel behind him, unrolled and unfurled it before him with both hands. I felt guilty to have invaded him. That boldly, too.
I approached him and asked in Hindi if I could photograph him. Suddenly a calm smile spread across hitherto blank face and his lips flickered wordlessly with excitement. That was beautiful. I interpreted that as a gesture of willingness. I took a couple of portraits. When he sensed I had done with the last shot, his gesture of willingness changed to one of curiosity, the desire to see the photographs taken. I immediately connected it with his initial discomfort with my photographing him. I wondered if he was mad at all.
He took a few diffident and tentative steps toward me when he read the willingness in my face. I also approached him and showed the pictures. His smile broadened. The portraits were good.
“Where are you from?” I asked him.
“Assam,” said he.
I could not but wonder if he was mad at all.
“Buy something and eat. You must be tired.” I said as I took a ten rupees note out from my wallet and gave it to him.
Cities press their poor out into the streets, under the bridges and into the gutters. Once homeless, your sense comes across as nothing different than insanity and you fall on the edge of humanity with little or no chance of getting back to where you really belong. Once out in the street, you are a nameless part of the city most pathetic landscapes–dust, pieces of paper and other litters, scavenging birds and animals.
I walked on, looking back at the man every now and then, and he looked stiff as if he was trying to resist the temptation to look toward me. When I took the turn I saw him bending to sit where he had been.