Friday, May 31, 2019


In the mid-1970s I took several long-exposure shots of a Russian dance company which performed in Madras. I had my camera, loaded with the usual black and white film of the time -- I used whatever came to hand; there was little choice in those days, and I was more interested in composition than in technical perfection. I had no tripod with me, so my pictures were not sharp, but I felt that they conveyed movement and expression.

This picture was one of my rejects, but I thought I could use it to experiment with some Photoshop-TopazLabs manipulation. It is not an expert piece of work, but I enjoyed doing it, and hope you will forgive its imperfections.

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Looking At You

Another scratched-up negative, with fungus damage to boot.  I like the boy's gaze, waiting to see why you have entered his space, but not too bothered about it.

Saturday, May 25, 2019


In the early 1950s, in my student hostel in Bombay, there were few sources of entertainment: movies, cards and other games for some. Singing, for those who could, jokes and talk. We essentially had to entertain ourselves.

At one time there was a genre of painting called vanitas. To quote Wikipedia, "A vanitas is a symbolic work of art showing the transience of life, the futility of pleasure, and the certainty of death, often contrasting symbols of wealth and symbols of ephemerality and death."

In order to compose my own vanitas, presumably with the active cooperation of my hostel-mates, I borrowed a skull and bones from the medical students, and imagined some appropriate sins: the "liquor" bottle was actually hair tonic, turned backward. The skeletal fingers hold something that must have been sinful, but I'm not sure what. There is a paper pack of Maypole Minors cigarettes, and another of Markovitch Red & Whites.  The skull wears a rakish crown of currency notes and a very big grin.

Wednesday, May 22, 2019

Tulsi's Sisters

Tulsi, my friend from boyhood, had many siblings. When his father died, he became the head of the family. Some of the siblings married and moved away; some remained at home. When I took this picture as a young man, I would have thought of these women as background characters in Tulsi's life.  I can't remember their names. But looking at it now, this picture, taken in the family's home, has a darkness, a sense of stoicism, of concealed thoughts, which makes it poignant and mysterious to me. 

Thursday, May 16, 2019

Mahabalipuram Shrine: a New Perspective

This small shrine is slightly away from the main structures and carvings in Mahabalipuram, and whenever I have gone there, my companions and I have had the area to ourselves.

I was trying out different camera angles and lenses, and this version struck me as endearingly wonky, as if the large boulders were growing out of the ground, and pushing the puny human architectural effort aside.  If you see it from straight on, the shrine is not, in fact, crooked or unstable.

Just for fun.

Monday, May 13, 2019

Girl at a Well

Taken in Velachery, when it was still a village. The dog has found the only patch of shade around.

Monday, May 06, 2019

Children, Darjeeling, early 1950s

I was thirteen when I took this picture in Darjeeling, where I had captained a group of thirteen boys from my school. The picture, by coincidence, fell under the eyes of a professor of Calcutta University, and he asked if he could have a print, to which I easily agreed. He at once named it 'Is Poverty a Rarity?', and had it published in the University journal. I had felt that the picture acquired fame out of proportion to its merit, but was happy that, with a camera which was not mine, I had produced the first picture that got published.

As a postscript I would like to add that, after posing for the picture, the girls, who were cheerful, regardless of the poverty in which they lived, were very happy when I offered them tea, coffee or milk.