When I finished my 365 Day Project, I found myself curiously adrift. I no longer felt motivated to go out and shoot every single day, but I was also keenly aware that the simple fact of shooting every day had improved my ability to see photographs and also my technique by sheer force of repetition. To compound the problem, most of January was spent searching for a new house, so my photography was somewhat reduced.
I decided that what I needed was another context to put my photography in. Sure, its great to carry a camera around and I’ve been fortunate enough to stumble across some great opportunities while so prepared, but I felt I needed to get excited about something and I knew that wasn’t just going to come out of thin air. I resolved to be patient, knowing I would recognise the opportunity when it came.
A trip to India provided exactly the stimulus I was looking for. I was very struck by the billboards. Everywhere I went in Bangalore, posters of epic machismo glared out of the walls, a whole mythology of the modern Indian male, straight from the imagination of advertisers. I was very conscious that these posters were setting a high bar for the majority of the population, feeding aspiration but also fuelling disappointment and anger. I decided the subject of my Bangalore project would be related to the advertising.
The day after the event I was working on finished, I got up early and drove out to the KR Market. I’d been here before and knew I would find some good juxtapositions of aspirational advertising and stark reality. This time however the market area was mostly deserted so I started to explore the backstreets surrounding the marketplace. Inevitably I quickly became lost and resolved to explore further. Diving deeper into these streets I discovered an area I would describe as impoverished. Here, the gap between poster life and real life became wider and more blindingly obvious. Beyond the business parks, there is an India of grinding poverty and I realised it would be here that I would find my best subjects.
I probably should mention at this point that roaming the back streets of a strange city alone, with a camera that probably represents several months wages to most of the people you meet is perhaps not the wisest thing to do. In a couple of places, I became aware that I was being scrutinised and moved quickly on. It’s a peculiar thing about travel, I’m a confident person and I’ve never felt directly threatened. I’ve walked the streets of New York, Beijing, Delhi, Bangalore, Paris and London in the last twelve months without a single incident. Always a first time, but I make an effort to be friendly when I’m out taking photographs and also maintain an awareness of what’s going on around me.
My final picture is the one that made the whole expedition worthwhile. I’ve always felt uncomfortable photographing poverty. It’s a conscience thing. I’m a middle class, educated male from one of the worlds leading economies.
No matter how little cash I feel I have at any one time, there’s a danger of being patronising and worse, prurient in photographing extreme poverty. I’ve walked on past several opportunities to photograph people sleeping rough, because at the time I had no purpose in photographing them. On this occasion though I had a purpose and a point to make. This picture absolutely nailed what I was trying to articulate with my poster shots. It’s a shot that carries the emotional punch I was looking for. Above and beyond the fact of the enormous gulf between the indomitable alpha male of the poster and the broken spirit of the man sleeping, there is also the fact that this person is somebody’s son, has been somebody’s lover and friend. It’s a very sad image I think and one that I’m very grateful to have had the opportunity to take.