Without The Frame, III
Varanasi, India, January 2007
This is one of my favourite images. It was taken on a day filled with frustration and in the middle of that day this moment of serenity and joy was injected.
Varanasi is one of the holiest cities in India. It sits on the banks of the river Ganges, a holy river choked with polution, decay, the remains of the dead, and the rotting offerings of marigolds placed in the river every morning and night by the faithful. Along her banks run stone steps, called ghats, that descend into the river and form the meeting place between the Ganga and her devotees. It is a chaotic, noisy, colourful place crowded with people who come to pray, to wash, to sell, to buy, to teach and to be taught. It is all at once a beautiful and ugly place, a place of serenity and cacophony.
And I couldn’t for the life of me figure out how to shoot the place. People were resistant to having their portraits shot, or they wanted a little baksheesh (money or gift) for doing so. Or they had their own agenda. Mister, you want boat? Mister, you want flowers? Mister, you want exchange money? Mister, you want boat? boat? boat?
So I spent my time in Varanasi walking up and down the ghats at all hours. Early morning, late evening, high noon. Trying to get a feel for the place and to get an image or two that summed up not only the spirit of the place, but how my spirit felt and thought about the place. And then I saw this boy. He was leaping from one boat to another, as a paper kite fell from the sky (the sky was full of them), trying to gauge the trajectory of the kite, to catch it. My last frame was this one. He’d stopped and raised his hands as if in supplication, and he waited, motionless, for the kite to fall.
It fell slowly, like a leaf on the wind, and it missed his hands and fell into the water and dissolved. It was both a beautiful and sad moment, one that defined the city of Varanasi for me. I sat there a while and thought about it, about how sad it was that he’d waited and waited and jumped from boat to boat, only to have the kite fall without his grasp and dissolve. But the boy went back to jumping and waiting and jumping some more and something told me that it was the running and the jumping that mattered to him and that I was wrong to think the purpose was the kite itself. Much like life I suspect.
EXIF data: Canon 5D, 135/2.0L, iso800, 1/200, f8. Image processed in Lightroom with Split Toning, Vignetting added after basic exposure and levels tweaking. See my whole Classic India series on my portfolio site – www.pixelatedimage.com