28 March 2009

The Salsa Congress - 2008

Salsa Congress, August 2008, Bangalore. For a long time i pushed these images to the abyss of my hard disk simply because, i kept having this nagging feeling that i was missing something in this story. May be i would find it if i went back to the story. May be i just need a little more patience. May be i need to put in a little more effort. Or may be, i should learn salsa! In any case, ive put my story together now. The story of what i think is the most fashionable art form in the city. Told as i saw it, with the hope that i will return to it this year.
A bollywood dance class
To me, the workshops associated with the Salsa Congress seemed to be the most exciting part of the event. The area cordoned off for the workshops were thronging with people... be it a workshop on salsa, bollywood or hip hop!
The staff of Hotel Ashoka preparing for the evening event
Performers seen rehearsing for the the evening's opening show.
Whatever people say about sexism, prejudices against women, violence, equal rights etc etc I might count as someone who has always been glad to have been born a woman. How else would you remember the occasion when you casually walked into a restroom to find it turned into a green room by the dancers and all you had to do to get permission to shoot was to ask whether they'd mind if you took pictures of them while they were dressing! Getting access to shoot, (I'm sure most of you would agree) is one of the most important part of your work as a photojournalist. But to walk into such unprecedented scenarios and to earn the trust of your subjects because you share a common understanding of the unwritten rules of the feminine world is much more than a happy coincidence. I knew how far i could go with my privileged access and they knew that i need not be told. We all respected each other for that. It's a pity i don't have any of their contact information. But its a small world. I'm hoping one of them would read this blog and see their pictures some day. My friends from the green room...
The Evening Show begins!

Shall We Dance ?

Thanks to Santhosh and Alex who very graciously granted me permission to shoot at their dance school and at Casa-del-sol during the after-parties.
Picture taken at 'Figure it Out' during a Salsa Class, Bangalore.
This shot is one of my personal favorites. I've used and re-used this image time and again until i decided it should finally rest where it actually belonged. Along with the story which it was originally part of. From the series of salsa parties i frequented at Casa-del-sol. Year - 2008.

24 March 2009

The Quarry

I felt i was on top of the world. You'd think you could simply extend your arms and touch the sky. You can't help it. That's the impression the clouds that float past you give. I was in Cherrapunji. 4,869 ft above sea level. The climate was pleasant, cool. The air, delicious. It's kinda difficult to explain the freshness of the air to those who havent experienced it. But its very close to the smell of the soil after the first rain. Coming to think of it, there was a sense of anticipation hanging in the air. Like the long wait for the onset of monsoon. After all, i was at Cherrapunji, the wettest place on planet earth. It was March 2008. The terrain seemed to littered with mines for coal and limestone and the economy of the surrounding villages depended on these mines. Stopping by a limestone quarry to shoot seemed to be the most natural thing to do. And thus we (my friends and i) ended up at a mine, trying to communicate in sign language (the labrourers understood a few words of English though) until our interpreter came to our rescue.
On top of the world - Khasi hills, Cherrapunji. Limestones are seen piled on the road side and smoke from the quarries are seen at a distance.
The basket used to collect limestones sit prominently near a shack while the dynamites were being set on the rocks in the background.
Matilda Reahtam, a labrourer is seen taking a few moments of respite at the quarry while the rocks were being blasted using dynamites.
The limestone pieces are collected by a labourer (usually a woman) after the men break large chunks of limestone into smaller pieces.
A bigger piece of limestone is seen in the foreground, while Matilda continues picking moderate size stone pieces.
A small pool of water is seen in front of a shack as a result of the previous night's torrential rain.
Once the small pieces of limestone are selected and collected, the women seperate sand and other foreign particles from the stones.
The stones 'baked' at various stages are piled near the shack.
Young boys in their teens or early twenties are seen employed to carry the stones back and forth.
A labourer returns after dumping a basket full of limestones into the furnace.
Limestone is burnt for 13 hours before it is pulverised to be used to make paper, bath soap etc.
Labourers bring heaps of stones from distant mining fields in a truck. On an average, 24-25 tonnes of limestone is produced in these quarries in the Khasi hills.
I was listening intently at the echo of the dynamites when i saw some men waving frantically at a distance. Amused, i waved back. A few minutes later, a man came rushing by and indicated towards another shelter. Taking the que, i went with him into what looked like a stronger(if that was possible) shack. Later i found out that those waving men were trying to warn me against the blasts. The blasts were happening at a close distance and the dilapidated shack i had taken refuge in would have hardly stood the weight of a rock hurtling down on me.
The man who had come to my rescue posed for me later. Seen in the background is the skeltal shack i had taken shelter under.
After a hard day's work, the labourers have a late lunch in the 'office'.
My last vision of Cherrapunji. Seen in the picture are coal mines.