The Magic Frame: What’s In The Picture?

The Magic Frame

The Magic Frame













Neither of these two pictures that I have posted is a particularly great picture. They were, in fact, taken one minute apart.

My train back to Delhi was 6 hours late, and even though I tried very hard to put myself in a Zen-like, or meditational, mood, there were times when I became a bit edgy.

These two pictures were taken when the train was fairly close to Delhi, and I walked up to the open door and poked my head out. There, tucked into the sweeping curve of the train, were these men unloading their stuff. A minute later, they were gone. What was left, was the curve of the train on the track.

Practically, the only thing that is different about these two pictures, is the presence, or absence, of the men.

Yet, one of these pictures is rather empty, and in the other you are tempted to ask questions. What were they unloading? Why there, and not at the station? Did they bribe the train driver to stop the train there? Do they have bombs? Contraband stuff? Or, are they legitimate traders?

In my mind, the first picture does arouse – can arouse – some interest, invite questions, maybe even tell a wee story. The second does nothing.

When I was introduced to the concept of story telling in photos, it took me a long time to get it. I am still learning this aspect of photography, and I may well be learning it ten years from now.

How do the elements of a photograph add up to make a composite, or coherent whole? Are there elements that distract, or subtract from the effect? Are there elements that help the story.

Good questions to ask before you press that shutter!

The Dispatches Of Hira Singh…. Part Four

Shall he who knows not false from true, judge treason?” - Eastern Proverb

This is an interesting one, and seems quite straightforward. In many ways, it is. Of course, philosophically, we can turn things on their head if we wish to, and it would be nice to get your views on this.

I am going to draw from Biblical lore, and a wee bit from what was once an obsure thought in nuclear/ particle physics. This was derived, I believe, from the fable of Schroduinger’s cat. Some phycists, or pseudo philosophers, postulated that there were many worlds in which the cat existed, and only when the box was open would you get an idea of which world it actually existed. Or, at least, it went in something of that nature. 

Now, some of you of the grey haired generation may well remember that rock opera, Jesus Christ Superstar. During Christ’s trial, his discussion with Pilate went something like this, where Christ asked the following question:

“And what is truth? Is truth a changing law? And, what is truth? Is mine the same as yours?”

Note the cunning similarilty between the last question and The Many World’s Theory? In many ways, we all exist in our own world, bounded by our perception of events, and things we see. 

When Judas betrayed Jesus, he committed treason. While he may have regretted this, and eventually hanged himself, when he committed the act of betrayal, was he false or true or misguided? 

It is a generally well known fact that the division of India in to India, Pakistan and eventually Bangladesh were the result of the differing ambitions and perceptions of three men – Nehru, Jinnah and Gandhi. Not only did thousands die in orgies of violence, or were uprooted from their homes, but their actions also resulted, or deepened, the recent gap between Hindus and Muslims. For centuries, Hindus and Muslims had co-existed peacefully, until the ambitions of the Trinity further exaggerated the influence of the divide and rule policy of The British post 1857. 

Did these three men commit treason against the people they proclaimed to serve? 

What exactly is treason? When someone betrays a leader? Or, cause? 

Is a deliberate act of betrayal sufficient to classify such an act as treason? Or, ‘involuntary actions” caused by blind hate or naked ambition?

What say ye?

The Magic Frame: On The Street

The Magic Frame

The Magic Frame

This particular post has come about on account of a writing exercise that I did. I was to write on something I do daily. I don’t photograph daily, but I always look for opportunities. So, here goes.

“I photograph often enough, and I have been doing so for years. The manner in which I photograph has changed over the years. In the beginning, I used to just shoot. Then, as I started to ‘see’, I began to look for shadows, shape, light,  texture and perspective. Later, as I took to the streets, I started to shoot people. As I photographed people on the street going about their daily business, I slowly started to interact with them.

During those early years, I would photograph poor people, with the purpose of depicting them as poor people. Misery, is what I wanted to shoot, and depict. I wanted to capture this in all its glorious detail. There was, I believed, a huge gap between the rich and the poor. The rich were happy, powerful, and had no worries in the world. They roamed the world in their fancy cars, walked around in their robes, and strode in the world, confident in their arrogance to rule and manipulate. They were, and to some extent, are still a very boring subject matter for me.

As I look back on some of those early photographs, what I have discovered is that, despite my best efforts to the contrary, the people I shot came across as people with a quiet dignity of their own.

Sure they cannot discuss the economics of a nation, nor can they discuss abstruse philosophy. In many ways they are constrained by their own prejudices and superstitions. However, I have found the same to be true of many rich folk. The difference is, I think, that the people I saw on the streets wear their masks close to their skins. It is relatively easy to see through to the person underneath.

During those early years, my favoured weapon of choice was a camera, with a long 300 mm telephoto zoom lens. I would stand behind pillars and poles and click photographs of people without their knowing it. I still do this from time to time. There is value in this, as it does help me capture a candid moment.

Yet, there is a crucial difference in my street photography of those early years, with my street photography nowadays.  During those early years, I was aloof from the happenings on the street. I stood apart.

These days, I tend to plunge into the maelstrom of life. I squat by the road. I do not apologise for my equipment. Sometimes, I make eye contact and smile. I chat with folk, and listen to their stories. I try and become a part of the daily hum.

There is a big difference in the quality of my photographs when I am aloof, and when I am part of the daily rhythm. When I stand aloof, my photographs lack life. They are flat and listless.

When I am part of the flow, then the camera becomes part of me. I start to enter the zone. Sometimes, a bit of magic happens, and I come alive. “

The Fables Of The Shah Of Blah (4) – A Blood Red Sun Rises

The Bloody Sun Rises...

The Bloody Sun Rises…

The Shah Of Blah slept through the night peacefully, as did his audience. When they awoke the next morning, they looked out onto a black sky dominated by a blood red sun.

“Do you see the sun smiling at us?”, asked The Shah Of Blah. “When the sun rises in this manner, it signifies a change in the tide of some of us sitting here. I wonder, I wonder”.

“And now, on to the tale”, he continued.

“The trio awoke in the morning to see a black sky dominated by a blood red sun. The sun seemed to be winking and smiling at them. Did the sun suddenly develop a soul of it’s own? If so, was this a wicked soul? What was the sun smiling about? Did it smirk at the folly of man, at man’s tendency to put himself above nature? No matter. The three companions, looking at the sun shivered, despite the angry flares that seemed to emanate from the bloody sphere.”

“They looked across at their host, Yama, who sat there by the river slowly twirling a twig in his mouth. He chewed and spat as he seemed to clean his teeth with the twig. Slowly he got up, his bones seeming to creak under his skin.”

“Approaching the three sitting there, he smiled. Blood seemed to ooze from his gums, and he spat blood. Blood mixed with the blood oozing from the ground, and the drops hissed as they fell to the earth. ‘Bismillah’, he said. ‘You promised to tell us your story. Let us hear the tale. Let it unfold. We are all waiting'”

“Bismillah coughed, and hesitated. The look on Yama’s face seemed to shrivel his tongue. His eyes bulged, and his long beard seemed to crackle with electricity. Never before had he experienced something like this. In his life, it was he who sat in front of people, silently chortling as he watched them squirmed in front of him. He had enjoyed playing his little games with them, laughing at the follies of people, as one by one they fell for his little schemes. Suddenly, it all seemed so insignificant now, as he sat before someone who, despite his creaking bones, possessed the far larger power to play with, manipulate and toy with the person in front of him.”

“‘We have time, dear Bismillah’, said Yama. ‘We have eternity before us. The river you see in front of you, has been flowing since almost the beginning of time, and it shall flow until the sands of time dry up, and the hour clock of our  universe has done it’s time. Until then, it shall flow, and I shall tend to the waters, and ply my boats. We have time. That is all we have.'”

“Continuing, Yama went on, ‘When all is said and done, all that we really have as our ultimate resource, is the time that we have allotted to us. How we spend it, is something we choose. It is our choice. We may often talk of how we were made to this, and made to do that. While there are extenuating circumstances at times, it is for us to choose how well we spend our time. When all is said and done, you believe that you will be called upon to account for your time, to God. But, have anyone of you seen God? Have any of you seen the Devil? Or, have they both been invented by man himself?'”

“‘Where indeed does Heaven exist, and where indeed does Hell exist but in your minds,in your souls? The tortures that you feel, the pain that you feel, is all the Hell that you need. Will you be reborn? Who knows? Do you? Do I? Will you disappear into the infinity of space? Who knows?'”

“‘We have time, dear Bismillah. We have time. When all is said and done, this is all that we have. The money that you accumulate will be left behind. All that you take with you into the beyond, is the time that you were given, and an account of how wisely you spent it.'”

“A silence stayed and grew in the hearts of his three companions, and their minds were still. Here they were, at the banks of the Vaitarna, with nothing but the tales of their lives. They realised that all that they had to contribute, was the stories of their lives, their beliefs, their actions, their hopes. Infinity raged about them, and they finally realised that the next steps that they would take would be influenced only by the stories of their lives”.

Silence reigned in the room, and all seemed dark for a while. The Shah Of Blah crossed his legs one way and then the other.

“Let us have some tea”, he said, “and then maybe, we can hear the beginning of Bismillah’s tale.

What Did We Do To Deserve These Men??

The Men

The Men


For those of you who read this post, I have a task for you.

First, look at the picture of the men in the top picture. Look at them enjoying their picnic snack,eating out of their little plates.

Step Two: Now, look at the picture of the water cascading down the rocks. Some of you may say, ‘hey, that ain’t half bad’. But, don’t stop there.

Enlarge the picture.

Look at the picture very, very carefully. What else do you see, apart from the water, the rocks and the plants?

Step Three: Then, look at the men again. Look hard at them.

And finally, lean back and ask yourself this question: what did we do to deserve such men (and women) as these? What indeed?

Talkin’ About The Magic Frame

The Magic Frame

The Magic Frame

Some of you know that I like to drivel on and on. One of the areas that I may tend to be a bit garrulous about in the future, is photography.

I thought of the name for these photographic musings as “The Magic Frame”, from something very profound that I read in a book on photography. It said that a photo is just a bunch of elements enclosed in a frame. The possibilities of how we add and arrange the elements in this frame is almost infinite and is determined by our artistic vision, and by our technical prowess. It is also determined by what drives us as individuals. So, whenever I write on this subject, you will see the above picture somewhere on the post.

I spoke about this to my good friend, Michelle Marie,and she designed the above ‘logo’ for me. She is a brilliant lass, one of the more brilliant and talented people that I have come across.

This post is not just to start this series of writings, but also to say ‘thank you’ to her.

So, I Have Another Question

I put up and took down photo web-sites several times. Largely because I had not thought through the strategy of how I want to market it, and what I want to do with it.

I also changed the name of how I want to promote this, from “Crooked Imagez” to “Rajiv Chopra Photography”. I like CrookedImagez, however, and will probably keep it for photo tours that I want to launch later.

This is strange, because I did consider myself to be an expert on branding and strategy. Yet, I seem to always rub my nose in the dirt when it comes to my own branding!

Anyway, now I am mulling the options of putting up pictures on Behance, or Flickr, or 500 px until I decide on my own site. Then, one of them will become companion sites.

The question is – which of these is the best to be discovered, and to have the options to sell the photos?

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