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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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