It can be said that until you've photographed in India, you've only seen the world in black-and-white. Colors, rich and saturated, are everywhere. You see them in the orange sari worn by the woman selling mangos and other fruits on the street, in the wall whose red paint explodes with energy when struck by the late-afternoon sun, and in the stones and intricate sculptures of Hindu temples that rise high into a clear blue sky. Color is everywhere, and for anyone who loves to create images, India seems like a photographic heaven.
The Lure Of India
Long popular with professional and amateur photographers, India is a destination whose complex palette of colors inspires you to raise your camera to your eye and create images unlike any you've ever made before.
"For me, India is a country of colors: the colorful clothes of people, the paintings on the wall, the movie posters, the temples," says Maciej Dakowicz, an amateur photographer whose passion for photography and India has inspired him to return numerous times to the country. "I think India is a paradise for photographers. I can't imagine a better country for photography. There's something for everybody—people, landscapes, monuments. There's so much life in this country, so many interesting people and places, so many colors."
With their wash of hues and tones, Dakowicz's photographs provide a glimpse into the richness of a culture that extends back more than 5,000 years. A third of the size of the United States, but with the world's second-largest population (more than one billion people), India is a nation filled with vibrancy and life. As Dakowicz's lens reveals, it's a world rich with warmth, life and an almost unrelenting energy.
"For some, India may be overwhelming, too chaotic, with people everywhere," he says. "But for me, the multicultural mix of the people makes the reality of this country even more colorful."
A Rich And Complex Tapestry
"I love the color in India," he says. "Often, I build my picture around color, but it's important to remember that color isn't everything. There must be something else in the image to make it work. There has to be a special moment, an interesting composition, something that evokes emotion."
Though India offers its iconic locations, such as the Taj Mahal in Agra, it's a country rich with ancient architecture and unique wildlife and landscapes. Dakowicz has discovered his own favorite locations to explore.
"I very much like the Hindu temples in Tamil Nadu with the walls painted with red and white stripes," says Dakowicz. "They provide a fantastic background for images. My favorite temple is Sri Meenakshi in Madurai, one of the largest temples in India. The whole city of Madurai is so genuine and so full of life.
"Another fantastic place is Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh state. The stairs along the Ganges River are so colorful. You can watch people bathing in ghats and praying. My other favorite place is Jodhpur in Rajasthan, the blue city. You can wander for hours in its old streets, shooting scenes of daily life with all the blue houses and walls as a backdrop."
And nothing draws Dakowicz more than the people whom he encounters while traveling in India.
"I travel to places that seem interesting to me, and what make places interesting to me are people," he says. "I often photograph in the streets, but I also visit buildings or shopping centers. If I'm in a city with famous landmarks, that's even better. There, I can photograph people against a famous backdrop or in a well-known environment."
The Photographic Approach
When Dakowicz started shooting with a digital SLR rather than a compact digital camera, he became bolder about approaching his subjects. Never comfortable with "sneaking" images of people, he has found that the presence of his Canon EOS 20D makes it obvious to those around him that he's there to take photographs. So while he may still feel self-conscious, he now takes advantage of the reason for his presence.
"I had so much difficulty approaching people in the beginning," he explains. "I didn't feel comfortable pointing my camera at them. Now, I just walk with my camera in my hand. I don't hide it. I want people to know that I take photos.
"I think the best way to photograph someone you don't know is to just make contact with them, talk with them, make them feel comfortable. It doesn't work all the time because sometimes you don't speak the same language. For those people, I'll just smile and show them the camera. Most people smile back, and I'll take my pictures."
Dakowicz prefers to keep his gear simple. Along with a Canon EOS 20D, he carries a 17-40mm f/4, 70-200mm f/4, 50mm f/1.8, 24mm f/2.8 and a Canon EOS 300D (Digital Rebel), which he carries in a Lowepro Orion Trekker camera bag. He carries four CompactFlash cards (totaling 3 GB of memory), which he downloads to an ImageTank G2 portable hard drive.
"When I travel, I use the EOS 20D with my 17-40mm lens and have the 70-200mm on the 300D. I try not to change lenses on the cameras too often because the sensor can get dirty really fast, and many times it can gather dust."
Dakowicz is planning another trip to India in the near future and he looks forward to the new things he'll discover. Though he has traveled to numerous other South Asian countries, including Cambodia, China and Vietnam, he finds himself continually drawn to India.
"The main challenge for a photographer may be to restrict yourself and not shoot so many pictures," he says. "In India, there's a photo opportunity with almost every step you make."
To see more of Maciej Dakowicz's work, visit www.pbase.com/maciekda.
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