Portrait photography in India
Known as Shahganj or King's ganj or market place during Mughal era, it is one of the three administrative subdivisions, of the Central Delhi district, of the National Capital Territory of Delhi, with the other two being, Darya Ganj and Karol Bagh. Known for its concentration of affordable hotels, lodges, restaurants, dhabas and a wide variety of shops catering to both domestic travelers and foreign tourists, especially backpackers and low-budget travelers, it has become particularly popular as a haunt for international cuisine.
India's craziest street
The whole Main Bazaar is lined with shops full to the brim with books, music, jewellery, bags, clothes, shoes, incense, textiles, wooden statues and handicrafts. Shanti Handloom and other textile shops offer bags, bed spreads, cushion covers, wall hangings and so on. The jewellery shops sell handmade beaded necklaces and bangles in every shape, size and color. Carved wooden statues of gods and goddesses, brass wares and decorations are available among handicrafts. A place specializes in incense sticks, incense cones and Indian tea. Even books, both new and second-hand, are available. With the arrival of the Hippie movement in the 70s at India's shores, the area became a regular part of the Hippie trail, for hippies, backpackers and college students looking for budget accommodations near Connaught Place, New Delhi and New Delhi Railway Station. Gradually the hotels and guest houses spread till neighboring Ram Nagar and area along Deshbandhu Gupta Road. This legacy which continues even today, with its streams of budget hotels, cafes and restaurants specialising in global cuisines.
Hand-pulled carts in India
As a portrait photographer and traveler in India it is hard to ignore the working conditions in India and the Indian man in the photo above is using a hand-pulled cart in his transportation work. A cart is a vehicle designed for transport, using two wheels and normally pulled by one or a pair of draught animals. A handcart is pulled or pushed by one or more people. It is different from a dray or wagon, which is a heavy transport vehicle with four wheels and typically two or more horses or a carriage, which is used exclusively for transporting humans. Over time, the term 'cart' has come to mean nearly any small conveyance, from shopping carts to golf carts, without regard to number of wheels, load carried, or means of propulsion and as the photographer found out the draught animals used for carts in India may be horses or ponies, mules, oxen, water buffalo or donkeys or even smaller animals such as goats or large dogs. Carts have many different shapes just like this one in Delhi, but the basic idea of transporting material or maintaining a collection of materials in a portable fashion remains.
"Carts may have a pair of shafts, one along each side of the draught animal that supports the forward-balanced load in the cart. The shafts are supported by a saddle on the horse. Alternatively and normally where the animals are oxen or buffalo, the cart may have a single pole between a pair of animals. The draught traces attach to the axle of the vehicle or to the shafts. The traces are attached to a collar on horses, to a yoke on other heavy draught animals or to a harness on dogs or other light animals"
The unorganised labour in India has been divided into four groups, the portrait photographer realised while being in India and this classification categorized India's unorganised labour force by occupation, nature of employment, specially distressed categories and service categories. The unorganised occupational groups include small and marginal farmers, landless agricultural labourers, share croppers, fishermen, those engaged in animal husbandry, beedi rolling, labeling and packing, building and construction workers, leather workers, weavers, artisans, salt workers, workers in brick kilns and stone quarries, workers in saw mills and workers in oil mills. A separate category based on nature of employment includes attached agricultural labourers, bonded labourers, migrant workers, contract and casual labourers. Another separate category dedicated to distressed unorganised sector includes toddy tappers, scavengers, carriers of head loads, drivers of animal driven vehicles, loaders and unloaders. While the photographer was phototographing portraits in India he also learned that the last unorganised labour category includes service workers such as midwives, domestic workers, barbers, vegetable and fruit vendors, newspaper vendors, pavement vendors, hand cart operators and the unorganised retail. Given its natural rate of population growth and aging characteristics, India is adding about 13 million new workers every year to its labour pool. India's economy has been adding about 8 million new jobs every year predominantly in low paying, unorganised sectorand the remaining 5 million youth joining the ranks of poorly paid partial employment, casual labour pool for temporary infrastructure and real estate construction jobs or in many cases being unemployed.
Tips for portrait photography
As a portrait photographer it is important to know that the background plays a essential role to a portrait. As you know, portrait is all about someone's face so it is important to have a background which is not interfering with the subject. A simpler and less cluttered background works better for portraits in India. However, sometimes surroundings in the Indian street may need to be considered to bring out the personality of the subject. Make it blurred or dimmed by focusing on the subject and the same applies to almost all types of portraits. In most cases, it is a good idea to blur or dim the background especially if there are many vivid objects and colors in the Indian street. This can be accomplished by using a zoom lens and shooting from a short distance or with a wide aperture manual setting. If you take the portrait in natural light, you have the best chance of getting a great look with the natural colors and skin tones. However, photographing outdoors may be tricky, as you may not be able to control the light in most situations. Make sure that you do not pose the subject right in front of the sun and this may cause unwanted brightness or deep shadow. Photographing in mid-day also should be avoided as much as possible and for best results, position the subject in such a way that sunlight in India falls on the face from the side. You may also use reflectors or an external flash to light up some parts of the face, but it is not something that the photographer himself is using, when photographing in India.
Photographing portraits in India
When photographing portraits in India another thing is the aperture, where you can try different apertures. A wide open aperture with a lower number will blur the background and make the subject stand out. A smaller aperture with a higher number will make the whole scene come into better focus and typically f/2.0 to f/5.0 are good for portraits. When taking portraits, your focus should be your subject's eyes and as most of us know eyes have a lot of stories to tell like the photograph above of an Indian cartpuller and as a good portrait photographer and you should be able to bring those out in your photographs. And it is not always a smiling face which makes a good portrait and you should try capturing different expressions while keeping focus on eyes. As a portrait photographer you should also carry out different poses when photographing. You will get some great portraits in India when you learn that the pose of the subject's body and face play an important role and when looking straight at the camera with motionless expression can be boring. You could also try to improve your portraits with some other poses and maybe it is with an inviting Indian smile, a sad expression with tilting the chin down another pose could be the subject turning the head back while walking forward or sitting and looking up in the streets.
"- A portrait is, according to what I have learned and as I remember it, a painting, drawing or photograph of a person, often only the face or a description, and when I think of photographing people, I automatically think of taking a portrait. But I think not all people photography is portraiture. A photographic portrait focuses on the person and attempts to convey a physical, spiritual or emotional image of what or who the person is. Of course there is also group portraiture, which is usually an image of a small number of people, such as a team or family portrait. However, people can also be photographed in other ways, where the focus might not be the individuals being photographed, but the social or cultural context fashion, news events, sporting events and so on or their relationship to the scene in which they are placed. One of my favorite lenses for portrait photography is definitely the 70-200mm f/2.8 lens mounted on my camera", the photographer says.
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