Put Up or Shut Up

The Red Fort
The Red Fort

What the fuck am I doing in India?  I am here now, I slept in, I ate a delicious breakfast in the hotel restaurant and now I’m tempted to hide out in my room the rest of day…I don’t have a plan.  This is not what I expected–to feel stifled and anxious.  It just hit me, I’m alone in a city of 10 million people and I don’t have a plan.  It’s overwhelming.  I could never tell my husband that I quit my good paying consulting job to launch my photography career and I choked.  My “plan” was to come here, capture as many incredible images as possible, meet with the famous Gulabi Gang and interview Sampat Pal and use these images, and the story, to apply for a grant to get the ball rolling.  Now that I’m here, I feel like a tiny fish in an ocean and I’m panicked.

Suck it up and go for it, right?  Deep breath…and GO!  I negotiated a trip through the hotel concierge to drive me around New Dehli (translation–I got totally ripped off for basically a taxi ride around but screw it, he’s got air conditioning and he speaks English).  What I soon learn is that taxi drivers here have deals with all of their friends around town and they try to get you to buy shit you don’t want/need or ask for…it’s annoying.  But I play along, it’s my first day.  After at least 3 stops at places I didn’t want to visit, he took me to “The Red Fort” for a walk about.  I finally take my camera out of the backpack and put it around my neck where it belongs.  I was the only light haired woman for miles and probably the tallest so I was anything but discreet with my bulky camera and colossal zoom lens.  But then, it happened, a lovely woman waved to me and smiled and told me I could photograph her and her children.  I was buzzing with energy and so relieved I almost fainted.  I immediately returned her smile and began shooting the group.  She was ridiculously beautiful, I wondered if she was some Indian actress who I should know.  Her kids were so photogenic and the women she was with were also amiable, though not as excited to be photographed (so I backed off).  Then what happened was so funny to me, people began asking me if they could have a photo with me!  I giggled and cringed (I much prefer to be behind the camera) and obliged everyone who asked with the agreement that they allowed me to shoot them in return.  This was my in.  It worked and I left with glorious megapixels of new faces!  By the end of the day, my cheeks were as tired as they were on my wedding day from smiling and I finished the first day knowing this was going to be epic.

post script…I realized after shooting the first smiling/waving woman that I failed to check my camera settings–total rookie move–and found that I had about 10 grossly overexposed images that I can never use.  You’ll never see them but I’ll always be grateful for her kindness.

New Delhi-3
Inside The Red Fort–the light was amazing
New Delhi-4
I’m not the only tourist
New Delhi-5
I loved all the dogs, but I wanted to feed them
New Delhi-6
Some Indian tourists made this woman pose for me, it was terribly uncomfortable but I had to capture her or they wouldn’t back off…she was sweet
New Delhi-7
Most Indian’s do not naturally smile for the camera, but this woman was so smiley, I loved her!
New Delhi-8
This woman was smiling before and after I took her photo, but you wouldn’t know it. She approached me for a photo first!
New Delhi-9
I couldn’t imagine what this woman was doing with all this wood (during a heatwave) until much later when I learned she was using it to build her home.
New Delhi-10
This is one of my favorites, these young guys chased me down to take their picture with me (on their iPhones of course). How cute is that? They were happy to let me take theirs in return.
New Delhi-11
This gentleman asked me to take his photo…
New Delhi-12
I can’t stop smiling when I look at her, she looks like she is desperate to laugh.
Red hair blue sari
This is the one woman I approached, I loved the contrast of her red hair against her blue sari…so striking
New Delhi-2
I would soon learn many people line their children’s eyes with coal to protect them from the hard sun
New Delhi-15
Pure joy
New Delhi-14
Beautiful
New Delhi-18
“Excuse me, my mother would like to take a photo with you” says the man to me, “I would be delighted”
New Delhi-19
…again with the young guys asking to take their photo with a middle aged woman, I love it!
New Delhi-16
The water on the floor (lower left) is where the vendors pour it on the dogs to cool them from the unbearable heat

7 thoughts on “Put Up or Shut Up

  1. So lovely, Kristin!! I was so excited to read about some of your experiences and how we can make the next trip even better! Can’t wait to join you next time 🙂

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  2. Beautiful images and wonderful story. I’m wondering, – why did the people want to be photographed? Did they want to get a copy of the picture or be part of the story. . . . Looking forward to more KMS!

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    1. Thank you! Honestly, it was strange for me–grown men literally running across fields to request that they have their photo taken with me. I think they must have thought that since I was the only caucasian woman for miles I must be someone famous? I am sure they don’t see many tall, redheads with freckles, eh? People would first ask me to take my photo with their children and then with them. My favorite of all was the grandmother who wanted her photo with me, I wanted to hug her but knew that would freak her out, ha! Only one man asked me to send him a photo back when I return home. He was a vendor at the spice market in Old Delhi who kept a photo album (he showed me) of all the tourists who took their photograph with him and mailed them back for him to add to his collection…you’ll hear about him much later (my last day)! 🙂 Thanks for reading, Patty! xoxox k

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