The photo that started it all and why I still do it


It’s usually this time of year that I reflect on the past 12 months (2011 YEAR IN REVIEW) and look back at what work and family events are shaping my life and bringing me into the new year. However I also find myself looking back to when I first started and I sit down and look at old photo’s, yea the ones on paper in an a crappy old album and not my monitor and I reflect on how I started photography.

This picture was taken in Varanasi or Banaras in Utter Pradesh eastern India. I took it in 2002 and like most of the time I spent in Varanasi it was extremly hot and muggy. Walking through this narrow alley, one of many, I can still vividly remember all the smells and the colours that hit me. India is a sensory overload! I was walking aimlessly like I normally did throughout that Asian adventure when I turned a corner to see this young boy walking towards me through the thick orange haze and with his long shadow approaching me. There is no magical answer or explanation but I simply lifted my camera, metered quickly and snapped one frame and walked past the boy and carried on like I normally did.

It wasn’t until I got home months later and I developed most of my film from the trip that I stumbled upon this photo. The truth is the original negative still produces a warmer feel then the drum scan I got and you are looking at. The haze in the background was slightly more orange and heavy but of course not nearly as sharp. I left the scars on the film from hair and scratches and I never cloned out the garbage in his shadow or anywhere else, it is as close to the original state as it could be, (albeit sharpened). The film I used was Kodak 400. This film was far from unique and in fact most of the film I bought in India or Burma or all of Asia for that fact usually came from a shop or shack that had film sitting in the sun so long that the box it came in was yellow or white from damage. It really didn’t matter too much to me though as long as I had a few memories from traveling.

Back then I traveled and took photos. I fear that now I’m more of photographer that travels and that haunts me a bit sometimes.

When this photo was shot, I was carrying an Eos 88 (US version was Eos 3000 I believe) and I paid about $350 with a lens for it when my trip began many months earlier in Hong Kong. I had zero or less knowledge how to operate a film SLR but I figured I’d have about a year to get it right. I was off by about 5 years.

I had been traveling quite extensively up to this point but never felt like my pictures were good enough or could be better. I also had friends that would tell me that some photos I took from London and Europe years prior were “professional” so we all thought the obvious career path was that I could be a photographer. My friends and I were about 22 years old and most of us had never even finished school or worked yet, so I trusted their life suggestions.

It’s funny how smart our youth is! I never felt like I could be a photographer until I saw this photo, and some other special frames from Asia in 2001 and 2002. It wasn’t like I spent days preparing for this one magical moment, it was pure luck and I literally didn’t have any settings ready aside from the camera being in focus and slung around my neck. When I see this photo it reminds me why I do it for a living. I look at this young boy approaching me and I can feel the air and heat, smell the food stalls, and it’s truly a moment I can put myself back in or imagine being a part of once again. I think that’s what photography is all about. In essence, a photo is a special moment in time that we can feel again.

Have a great holiday and an awesome 2012!