We took over the lobby at a 5-star hotel feeling a bit awkward, yet grateful, around the plush furniture, perfumed air and air-conditioning. For 10 days, we had basically “roughed” it, guerilla style, with modest but comfy accommodations and simple, cheap street foods (aka: chicken biryani). Now we all sat silently looking at our laptops, with our frothy $5 cappuccinos in hand, reviewing our photos to pick the best 20 to show the others. It was the first time on the 10-day trip that I really looked at my photos. I tend to enjoy this type of tantric photo review. As a habit, I never look at my pictures when I take them. Being a bit old-school, I prefer to pretend my digital camera is a film camera and still enjoy the “surprise” of the images when the “film” gets “developed”.
As I relived the trip through my photos, I reflected on the change of my personal attitude and my unwarranted anxieties. Ten days ago, I was positive I was going to encounter the worst of humankind but my experiences could not have been more removed from that. The apprehensions that had plagued me for weeks and had kept me awake for nights had disappeared. The “murders and thieves” were anything but, in fact, I found the Bengalis to be some of the nicest, most curious people I have ever met. Neither hostile nor indifferent to my presence but, in actuality, happy that I was there and as curious about me as I was about them.
As I chronologically reviewed the over 8000 pictures I took, I was happy to see a clear evolution of my images and storytelling. I noticed that the mistakes and poor shooting choices I made on Day 1 were progressively more absent as the days went on. The number of “rejected” shots became smaller and smaller and my photos became more deliberate. My images showed my transformation to a more mature, patient and discerning photographer. I was tired, exhausted but with the kind of exhaustion that made you feel good, content, like you had done something important. I learned so much and made great friends. Etienne, was right– this was Mecca, the Holy Land, the Promised Land of photographers.
I boarded the plane, richer in experience, richer in art and with all my vital organs.
November 27- December 4, 2019
P.S.- Thank you so much for taking the time to follow me during this amazing adventure. If you are interested in doing this trip (or similar in many locations around the world) please contact my good friend Etienne at PicsOfAsia.com (I have no financial affiliation). If you would like to invite me over for dinner to discuss the difference between travel photography and street photography I’d be happy to attend – just promise me you won’t serve chicken biriyani.