Archive for May, 2012

Varanasi, A Shelter of Peace in the Indian Chaos

After travelling from Delhi to Allahabad via Kanpur, I arrived in Varanasi looking for some peace. I had no aim but to relax while exploring the everyday life of one of the holiest cities in the world.
For years, I have been looking at photographs of Varanasi taken by fellow photographers, so when I made my first step onto its ghats, the whole scene was very familiar to me (a very weird feeling). Among them is Claude Renault a French photographer and friend who eventually joined me during my stay in the city. It was great to see him at work in his favourite country. We usually spent the morning on the ghats before roaming the old city in the afternoon. The old part of Varanasi is an extraordinarily colourful place where in the morning, the sun struggles to penetrate its lanes to light the wonderful textures of its walls. In its shady lanes, the crowd of pedestrians, groups of pilgrims, policemen on duty, children playing, wandering cows, stalls and shops, markets, street sellers, sound of bells and horns, smell of incense and flowers create a totally unique atmosphere for all the senses.
A bright light at the end of a lane may lead you to a ghat and the Ganges river bank. Here is another extraordinary part of the city where Indian culture and religion mixed together with some scenes of everyday life: pilgrims bathing and doing their puja, families around a burning body attending a Hindu funeral ceremony, Brahmen reading scriptures, sadhus meditating, men washing themselves or doing some morning exercises, dhobbies cleaning linen, women making bricks out of cow droppings, people drying pieces of linen, clothes or saris, souvenir sellers and chai sellers make the life of Varanasi’s ghats. Everything contributes to its atmosphere along with the special feeling created by the Ganges and the wild empty space opposite the ghats.

I didn’t come to Varanasi for the religious experience but I find a peaceful place that will certainly make me go back during my next visit to India.

We were there – Olympic Torch in Bristol

On a glorious day of May 2012, the Bristolians gathered all around Harbourside to wait for the coming of the Olympic torch in Bristol. In Millenium square, they were hundreds of them enjoying the sunshine and watching live on the screen this historical moment while children were playing around. Eventually the torch arrived safely greeted by the crowd.
As the torch slowly arrived Harbourside, I explored the life surrounding the event in order to record it.

Street Photography and myself through the French Humanist Photographers

Pont des Arts, Paris (Jerome Lorieau)
Pont des Arts, Paris – 2011

It was August 2004 when the death of the famous French photographer Henri Cartier Bresson was announced on the French news. At the time I did not really take pictures seriously. I just had a hybrid digital camera bought six months before. This dramatic moment made me have a new look at his work. It changed the way I took photographs for ever. I was stunned by his way of creating perfect compositions. His eye had an ability to bring together lines in perfect geometry while playing with human shapes or simply capturing the decisive moment. There was one image in particular that fascinated me: an image that he took in Paris at The Palais Royal Gardens in 1959. In my view, the photograph is far beyond perfection. The alignment between the lines of the trees monument is perfect and the man walking was captured at the right place at the right moment, fitting amazingly the only gap for a human shape in the frame. The well anticipated moment was cleverly framed in a fantastic composition. The photograph had a great influence on me and still has today. I could spend hours and hours looking at it with the same fascination.
I have spent a lot of time studying the composition of Henri Cartier Bresson’s photographs. Like a lot of street photographers, I am also attracted to his way of capturing the decisive moment. It is pure joy. However, Henri Cartier Bresson is not the only photographer whose work I admire. There are many others; mostly humanist French photographers, like Robert Doisneau, Willy Ronis and Edouard Boubat. They had a lot of poetry, charm and romance about the way they captured French life between the 40′s and the end of the 60′s. They told the stories of our streets, stories of the French people, stories of the Parisians, but overall, stories that history books don’t cover. It was all about documenting the life of ordinary people, a way of life that has now disappeared but that we are able to see thanks to their photo legacies. If Henri Cartier Bresson helped me to understand composition and capturing the moment, the French Humanist photographers make me understand that capturing our time, our streets, the people and life are very important in terms of documenting a period of time. Photography is able to stop time and capture in images our history. It is fascinating.

Soon on my blog “Street Photography, wandering & documenting the time”