02.25.2014 by Andrea
I’ve been at a loss for words for a few days. Yes, it happens. I’ll say it again if everyone missed it the first time. I’ve been at a loss for words.
Disclaimer. Again, this is a post of mindless musings, avert your eyes if you’re already tired of my dribble. It may be a lot like jazz, no resolution. [Thanks Don Miller for the inspiration/steal.]
To understand my inability to speak, we have to start at the beginning. To know me, is to know I’m a horrible liar. I slink away like a guilty child or my voice becomes horribly high pitched. Right now I’m feeling like I’ve been caught red handed here in India.
Here’s the long and the short of it, my Gram is well into her 90’s and she told me she wished she was on this journey through India with me. As many of you know I’m not generally fond of taking an actual camera with me on trips. I heavily rely on my mobile’s camera and everyone else to capture the sights and sounds. My focus is eating. But, my parents were pretty suggestive [read: firm] on my gathering of images so that my Gram could glean insight on this trip. I was reticent until an amazon.com box showed up on my doorstep. It took a day or two after landing here before I really started taking pictures. Lots of them. I’ve posted a few on Instagram and even uploaded some to Facebook. Shiver me timbers! Every day I’m reviewing my shots and deleting the messier/blurry/crooked ones off my phone and camera. What I’ve teased some of you with doesn’t begin to describe the compendium of pictures I’ve got digitally stored. There are some really beautiful images. Then, on day 3, I heard this phrase that was uttered casually by an English bloke and it was like a punch to the gut. Poverty porn. In it’s most basic definition, poverty porn is using forms of media to facilitate empathy and sympathy for poorer nations.
Here’s the skinny. I’m deeply conflicted. What causes me to take snapshots of all these people and sights that seem foreign to me? Am I exploiting or merely being touristy? I’m feeling bad that with the flick of my hand I’ve brought my sunglasses over my eyes and turned away several times when the poverty took my breath away. I’ve been on mind overload trying to understand the culture and ways of the people and at times been judgmental. Being on a tour sometimes you don’t have much time to process before you’re onto the next. I’m unsure as to whether or not there is beauty in the images, and arousal to the senses I’m trying to capture or just a stark nakedness of the contrast to how I live.
We spent a lot of time in transit between cities, India is a big country. While my mind has been abuzz at how to work this out in my head and heart one of the most famous quotes from Shantaram keeps playing like a ticker tape.
I’ve been chewing on this for a bit now. It’s been the overwhelming thought as I take pictures. I’ve shot a lot of backsides of people, thinking it was a way to be less invasive. But, sometimes if you stopped for a minute and looked around, camera flashes were going off around us, my tour group, as well. Just as much as we find the people of India intriguing, they do us. I’ve taken pictures with strangers and of strangers and somehow I think it works itself out.
At the end of the day I think it’s okay to conclude that I’m proud of the scenes I’ve captured behind the lens. They tell the story of how I saw India.
In a few hours I’m leaving this beautiful country on a jet plane. I’ve got a staggering amount of images to process through, on a bigger screen. I’m readying myself to suck in my breath sharply a time or two when I upload all these photos to my laptop. Equally so, I’m looking forward to recounting experiences, exposures of the humanity of life, feeling the stinging pains, along with enjoying memories of soft smiles and gentle spirits when I share the album with my Gram.
Thank you for trekking along this journey with me. Namaste.