The streets of Calcutta remind me of the streets of Cuba – fragile, unique, deteriorated, abundant with stories of years gone by. These streets contain a beauty that is not as obvious on modern, newly decorated streets evident in various wealthier cities I have visited. The beauty seen and felt on the streets of Calcutta is a deep beauty, a beauty born out of years of struggle, poverty and a class system that bewilders most people born in the Western world.
On landing in India for the first time there are 2 things I will never forget – the heat and the smell – these two intertwine seamlessly to become almost as overwhelming as the traffic and the overcrowding. In saying that the moment my feet hit Indian soil I was hooked and knew immediately this would be the first of many visits.
India just like the two paragraphs above is a land of contrasts, a land of the most amazing, jaw dropping contrasts. As a Travel Photographer it is these contrasts that evoke curiosity and a deep desire to return to experience these contrasts again and again.
Within the first hours of arriving in India on a Photography trip with The Hope Foundation we found ourselves walking the streets of Calcutta, smiling at the friendly faces that greeted us and capturing their beauty with our cameras.
The first person to catch my eye was a beautiful older Indian woman. She peered out at us from behind her front door, possibly wondering what all the noise was and who were the paler than pale individuals carrying large camera equipment. I stopped to greet her and as she had no English and i spoke absolutely no Hindi, our greeting and subsequent interactions were carried out through gestures and body language.
Gestures and body language are often the only mode of communication available to Travel Photographers as most of the time we don’t speak the native language and the people we meet may not speak our language. This mode of communication does take getting used to but after a while it becomes second nature and almost becomes as easy as speaking your mother tongue.
On greeting the beautiful Indian lady she became shy when she realised I wanted to photograph her. My camera and lens were intimidating and I could sense it made her feel uncomfortable as her eyes averted from me for the first shot.
On showing her the image in my camera she liked what she saw and began to relax. Her shoulders dropped and she became the perfect model – relaxed, assured and confident staring into the lens.
Some images are better with a serious face or a half smile but I knew this lady’s face would come alive with a wide grin and I was right. As I gestured for a smile she nodded in agreement and I took the shot. Her eyes beaming with happiness, her skin reflecting radiance from the Indian sun, an Indian beauty indeed.
I often think of this indian lady and wonder what her life was like, what life she had lived. I may never know this but what I do know is that my life was enhanced by our chance meeting that day on the streets of Calcutta.
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More images of my portfolio can be viewed on my website www.siodanphoto.com