Thursday, 19 December 2013

The Travel Photographer's Own Favorite Photographs of 2013

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
I have three favorite photographs for 2013.

Not because they're particularly aesthetic, or are perfectly in focus or have any of the criteria some photographers frequently agonize over, but because (1) I like them and (2) because they remind me of the precise circumstances in which I was while making them.

In other words, I can "feel" and "smell" them.

1. Ustad Meraj Ahmed Nizami, a Qawwal master, is the elder descendant of a close disciple of Khusro, and belongs to its well-known discipline known as "gharana". His extended family has been performing qawwali for the past eight centuries, and as such Khusro's style has passed unbroken across seven centuries and thirty generations. It was in his very modest apartment in Nizzam Uddin that I was introduced to this talented traditional musician who, despite his advanced years, was cheerful and lively.

Further details about this photograph and its background information can be read on my post of June 3, 2013

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
2. The Kashmiri Mother And Child, at the Makhdoom Sahib shrine in Srinagar. Children often get their first haircut at this popular shrine, because tradition holds that toddlers whose hair is shaved here can expect a blessing from the 16th century Sufi saint Makhdoom Sahib. No one but a mother can give a drink to her baby with such care and gentleness. It was only after I made the image that I noticed how delicate her hand gesture was...and the small nick made by the barber's razor to the baby's head.

This photograph and others from Srinagar can be viewed on my photo gallery Kashmir's Sufi Soul.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
3. The Malang of Ajmer is probably the one that I view the most, taking into account my interest in the Sufi culture in South Asia. It was made in one of corners of the shrine of the Sufi saint Moin'Uddin Chisti during the commemoration of his death anniversary.

Malangs and Qalandars are religious mendicants who wander from shrine to shrine, following the "call" of long-dead Sufi saints. Usually shunned for their use of cannabis/hashish or ganja, and for living outside societal norms, they were nonetheless quite popular during the Urs in Ajmer.

The malang on the right was extremely amenable to be photographed, and being covered with heavy iron hoops, chains and padlocks, showed off his strength by lifting his arms like a prize fighter.

It's said that some of the malangs cover themselves with padlocked chains as a tribute to Ali Ibn Hussein Zain al Abedeen, the great grandson of the Prophet Muhammad, who was captured and placed in chains.

More of my photographs made during the Ajmer Urs are on The Veneration of Gharib Nawaz gallery.