Wednesday, 12 March 2014

Report VI: The Sacred Cities Photo Expedition-Workshop

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Exhausting...exciting...exhilarating...and certainly not easy...this is how I can describe my experience of photographing the various phases of Holi celebrations in Vrindavan and Mathura.

Yesterday, we covered a Holi event in Chhatikara, on the pilgrimage site of Garud Govind, which involved wildly rhythmic and sensuous dances by village women. There was no gulal throwing, nor any mischievous rascals throwing colored water at women and tourists, but loads of flowers were scattered over dancers and visitors.

I found a spot near the band, and more importantly, near the loudspeakers...the music was so loud that it deafened me for a couple of hours. There was a group of Asian photographers as well, and unfortunately these lost no time in trying to find ways to take our spots whenever they could. I rose up from where I was sitting to get a close up of a dancer, and found that one of the Asian women photographers had taken my place...and was now sitting quite comfortably in my spot.

Since there was no point in arguing the blatant lack of common courtesy, I just sat on her. Yes, literally sat on her. It took less than a millisecond for her to withdraw, dragging her 70-200 lens with her.

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

Today was another phase in the Holi festivities...and it was quite difficult to cover. It was the Keshav Dev Ki Holi near the Krishna Janambhoomi Temple...which is the birthplace of Krishna.

Gaudy chariots carrying youngsters wearing Krishna and Radha costumes and make up, incredibly loud music blaring from a battery of loudspeakers, young men throwing handfuls of pink gulal at everything that moved, especially women...and particularly Western women.

It was quite difficult to avoid being showered with the pink powder, photograph and avoid motorcycles and scooters at the same time. Many of us used wide angle lenses, which meant we had to approach our subjects rather than photograph from the safety of the small stalls lining the procession routes.

Returning to our hotel, I (as the remainder of the group) was so covered with the pink powder, that I chose to walk into the shower fully clothed. It was the quickest and easiest way to get clean.