Wednesday, 2 April 2014

POV: Why Wasn't I Thrilled With Holi? Why No Fuji X Pro1?

Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy- All Rights Reserved
On my return from The Sacred Cities Photo Expedition-Workshop last week, a handful of readers asked me these questions:

1. Why wasn't I more thrilled with photographing the Holi festivities in Vrindavan and Mathura?

2. Why haven't I used the Fuji X-Pro1 more often (only an estimated 10% of the time)?

Well, I certainly was excited to photograph Holi, particularly as the pink/fuschia, yellow and neon green powders being thrown in the air, smeared on people's clothes and faces made for compelling color (and possibly monochrome) photography. However, something was missing....and I knew that that something would be missing much before traveling to India.

The large majority of my photo expeditions are event-specific; whether it's to photograph the mind-blowing annual death commemoration of Sufi saint Moin'uddin Chisti in Ajmer, the bloody rituals of Velichapadus in Kerala or large Ngaben (cremations) in Bali. These events are usually religious and spiritual, and masses of people attend them to express their devotion and faith.

The festival of Holi had little evidence of that. Holi is a festival of Spring, of reconciliation, of exuberant fun, to celebrate the advent of a new season. Its religious 'ancestry' has been largely forgotten, and secular festivities have taken it over. While the throwing of colors seem to have some original religious significance, it's now an opportunity to 'frolic' as some of my Indian friends describe it.

Avoiding excessive colored gulal being thrown directly at me prevented from entering in what I call my "deep zone".. This the frame of mind that I get into when I photograph...sort of being sucked into a different dimension where I only see what I want to photograph....a sort of complete immersion. That was generally not possible during Holi. Only for a few moments in the 'mosh pit' of Vrindavan's main temple, Bank Bihari, did I achieve that...oblivious of the chaos around me, and focusing on what I wanted to photograph.

Outside of the Banke Bihari temple's courtyard, where expressions of faith and devotion were aplenty, I saw no religiosity whatsoever...aside from tapestries depicting Krishna and Radha, and devotional songs blaring from roadside shacks.

That's why I wasn't thrilled photographing Holi as much as I was buzzed to photograph the religious events I mention earlier. As I said in an interview, "it's religious rituals and ceremonies that attract me the most for my photographic work because it’s where people are at their most authentic, where there are no artifices and no make-believe. It is at these events that one connects with humanity at its basic denominator, and with the nobility of the human spirit … and it is that that nourishes me, and I try to share that with others."

It's that simple.

As for not using the Fuji X-Pro1 more often. It's a good question. I thought about that, and conculded it was a combination of needing the speed of the DSLRs and their being better sealed. Before traveling, I fashioned a waterproof cover for the X Pro-1 out of a Zip-Lock bag, and while it seemed to be more than adequate, I was reluctant to put it to the test.

It's that simple.

What I do regret very much is that I didn't use my iPhone during Holi...I didn't want to risk it being stolen in the crowds.