In Pondicherry, we stumbled upon Kasha, from Kasha Ki Aasha restaurant. She encouraged us to see a street art Photography exhibition by Varun Gupta. Varun had produced a series of portraits at the Kumbh Mela, by setting up makeshift photo booths. He invited people to pose and photographed each one twice – each got a free polaroid print while he took another for himself. Some of the results had been printed up on large scale black and white street posters, and were pasted on the walls in the style of Indian cinema posters. The effect was super. It brought to mind all sorts of questions about posing, self-consciousness, posture, identity and so forth. It produced honest images of some of the fantastic Kumbh Mela characters, both pilgrims and sight seers.
Having been attempting some street portraiture myself, I struck up a conversation with Varun Gupta about the ethics of street photography… when, where and how is it appropriate to capture images of strangers – possibly for exhibit. he had some great insights to share, about the importance of some kind of relationship developing between the photographer and the subject, to legitimise the image. And almost immediately, our theory was put into practice when two wandering mendicants bowled up and demanded I give them some money for lunch. We got some great photos. They got a great lunch.