I’ve been out of India for over three weeks now, but wanted to finish sharing our experiences of our last few weeks in India before closing out that wonderful chapter in our lives, as documented in the TAZM Pictures blog.
We have been doing photowalks for the last couple of years, and would often return to areas we’d visited and hand out prints. But a few months back, I bought one of those Lomo’Instant cameras from their Kickstarter campaign. The idea was to be able to hand out photos on our walks, so that we would be “giving” in addition to “taking” photos. We went through several packs of the instant photos and I had ordered a second load of them, with glittery frames, rainbow frames, things like that – which kids would like. But I still had 3 packs (30 photos) sitting on my shelf when the packers were cleaning out our house, and I realized that the film needed to be used up because it would never survive being x-rayed. So after all of our things were gone, we went on one last photo-walk through the local neighborhood, with the Instant camera and our digital cameras.
Above are some shots of the neighborhood we walked through – really just a couple of blocks from our house. The “shopkeeper” is missing but this is a makeshift bike tire repair shop. He can’t be far, he’s left his shoes! Even after all this time it is still a bit nerve racking to walk up to strangers and ask to take their photos. But we decided to focus on moms with babies, and thankfully nobody got too weirded out since my wife was with me. Some were a little confused, because the photo initially comes out of the camera blank – it takes about 30 seconds for the image to begin to materialize. But once they realized how it worked, they all appreciated the instant photos we handed them. We had to keep moving, because once people figured out we were handing out photos, they all wanted one as well, and this can quickly snowball. So we came around a corner and I saw sparks flying, and as I mentioned I was planning to ask this guy for a photo, he shouted out, asking me to take his photo. Too easy! He also got an instant photo with a cute pink frame. But soon his buddies wanted a turn at the metal cutting tool, and quickly we had to make our exit.
The men below were all hanging out at a bus stop. I don’t think they were waiting for the bus, just hanging around. When they saw two foreigners with cameras walking by, they quickly called out to us and asked us to take a picture of the older gentleman in the center of the photo. No idea how they are related but they were all extremely enthusiastic. For the photo itself, of course the expressions all turned serious.
We were able to give an instant photo for the older gentleman but not one for each person in the group!
We ran into the proud dad below who wanted us to photograph him and his daughter. People reading this blog from outside India may wonder about the dark eyebrows and spots. The spot on the cheek is common on small children and is thought to ward off the “evil eye,” I believe. And in southern India it is common to darken the eyebrows. Some people think that it will help the eyebrows grow in thicker, while others just think it looks nice. Often the black material is “kajal” or kohl, and thankfully it is being applied less frequently as eyeliner, as it often contains lead and can cause health problems. All that aside, this is a really proud Dad, and he also got an instant photo.
Next, we passed this gentleman and his wife – he is confined to a wheelchair – and he got our attention and asked us to photograph him and his wife. She was a little shy but eventually agreed to his wishes. Instant photos for them and a digital one for me.
Of course, once she got her nerve up and allowed herself to be photographed, and asked for some additional group photos!
The entire time, these little guys were following us – they had clued in to the fact that we were handing out photos and were insistent until we finally had to announce that we were out of instant film. Then they were just happy to pose as a group.
And on the way home we passed by this shop where they turn rice into rice flour. Rice flour is what the (mostly) women use to make kolams – geometric designs outside their front doors – every morning (Here is a blog post about kolams from our first week in Chennai). But making the flour is dusty, hot work!
As we rounded the final corner, we came upon this cow, eating out of a discarded suitcase. And so, my blog posts chronicling our adventures in Chennai, India, end as they began. With a cow on our street.