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Saturday, March 25, 2006

Soordasji - a Candid Portrait

Earlier I had posted a candid portrait that I had clicked in India during my previous trip back home. Well, here is another candid portrait from India but with a subtle difference.

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First of all, what makes a "candid portrait". From what I have understood so far, A candid portrait is an image of a person where

  • the subject (the person) is not deliberately posing for the shot
  • the image should capture the essence of that person's mood or character or some other unique property

As per this description, the above photo does not look quite candid, as it seems the person is posing.

Well, he is not! He is blind! He had no idea that I was taking his picture or even I had a camera in my hands!

The subject
The person in this picture is Soordasji. On our India trip, we also did some pilgrimage to a holy place in Madhya-Pradesh (which literally means Central State) of India. Soordasji has dedicated his life to taking care of inner sanctum in a small shrine located inside a larger temple. I don't know much about him other then the fact I have seen him at the same shrine almost two decades ago, dedicated to the same activity. When I say "dedicated" I mean really really dedicated! The number of visitors is not very large on any given day at the shrine. But day and night, he keeps the inner sanctum clean by washing and dusting. He hardly even moves away from the place.

In fact it was quite a humbling experience to see him there. I remembered when I visited this place when I was a kid and my father told me about him. And now I was visiting the same place with my daughter and seeing him do the same dedicated service.

I thought of taking his picture next to the shrine door etc. But none of that would have done justice to the character of this man that I had in my mind. So I took a close-up. It captures this mans simplicity, his age, and his eyes in a way that I liked. This man is really pretty much what you see in this picture. He does not have much worldly possessions, nor is he interested in anything other then keeping the shrine clean. I am not sure how to capture his dedication in a picture. But once you know his story, you start seeing that in his face and eyes.

The original was obviously in color. But to bring out details in his dark skin, I had to do some editing (Fill Light, Contrast etc.) that caused the color quality to suffer. So I ended up converting it to Sepia, then exaggerated contrast a little further and moved the temperature control also to get the kind of colors I liked. All of this was done in Picasa2.

One last note. Before you think I exploited the blind by taking his picture, a clarification. I did tell him after taking his picture; he didn't mind. I gave some donation too and wondered what a man so detached from the world will do with the money I'm donating anyway! Well, it only took a few seconds to find out. On our way out, an administrator told us that the temple in which the small shrine is located was going through some reconstruction, And the new beautiful gate that was being built, was entirely being sponsored by Soordasji!

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Blogger Rubic_Cube said...

Saanga, Amazing Potrait. I love what you did to the colors. Sepia really brings out the effect! And the story of "Soordasji" is ofcourse heart-touching. I have heard of such dedicated individuals. Your photograph serves as a proof of the fact that God has infact filled the world with these kind of people too.

3/26/2006 10:11:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


i think your blog is really interesting. am myself a very keen photography enthusiast. i read your post on why u upgraded to a 20D. me trying to save up to purchase a 350D :( do keep writing more regularly.

5/22/2006 04:59:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

love your blog.
by the way , how do you know so much about india. i always felt that americans had very limited knowledge about india and indian culture when compared to the other way around.
it really sucks that so many westerners still think of india as a land of snake charmers. and although from a photographic perspective , rural india is a much richer subject matter , i wish more of modern india too would be documented.

and your name doesnt really suggest that you're from california. where are you actually from?

5/22/2006 11:17:00 AM  
Blogger saanga said...

Thanks for your encouragement. Well I know India like an Indian because I am of Indian origin and the name is just an alias :-)

5/24/2006 09:37:00 AM  
Anonymous tukangKoding said...

hi Saanga

i love your blog ! i really do . Photography look like a great things to learn beside programming . I just bought my first camera while ago .

btw.. i can't see images on your blog something problem ? maybe because you're using the underscore char on image's URL ?

man ! i hope i can see the images :D.

8/07/2006 03:22:00 AM  
Blogger Thulasi said...

interesting blog
lots to learn
thanks for those details

8/18/2006 05:59:00 AM  
Anonymous carlo.85 said...

Before I read your definition of a candid portrait, I was thinking how could a portrait be candid when the two words mean the opposite of the other. Well I was glad to know that there are instances when this could happen. And the photo you took of this man is really great.

8/24/2006 01:50:00 AM  
Blogger Denise said...

I just came across your site and was appalled that you took a photograph of a blind person without asking their permission, especially as you have chosen to post it on the internet. Being blind does not take away a person's rights to their privacy nor should it take away your moral responsibilities.

1/10/2007 04:38:00 AM  
Blogger saanga said...


I respect your opinion. I wish you had read the entire post.


1/16/2007 11:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey Denise, read the entire post before posting a comment like that and thus making yourself look stupid.

Saanga, I really enjoyed this portrait and the story behind it. Being a avid Digital photographer myself a enjoy your blog.

Keep up the good work.

1/25/2007 08:27:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


3/22/2007 08:36:00 PM  
Blogger workhard said...

Thats an excellent portrait.. his expressions are so pure..

How to make a website

10/10/2009 10:08:00 AM  

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