Friday, June 18, 2010

What the Hell is the West teaching these kids about India?

So I came across this critique request at an online photography website's forum from a gentleman who recently visited India for 5 weeks, and was seeking general comments on how well he captured the essence of India.

Guess what: not a single one of his about 100 pictures showed a high rise, the new Delhi Metro, the new malls, the Akshar Dham, the world's largest public transit system (the railways), the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the brilliant kids who can count faster than a DSLR can take pictures, the rising middle class feminine section thanks to growing tech jobs, etc, etc.

Every single one of his pictures show either a poor kid with no clothes on, a village girl carrying water in torn clothes, a cow, a goat, an over crowded rickshaw, a mother breast feeding her kid in public with not enough cloth to cover herself, etc., etc.

I am now sick and tired of the so called adventure photographers making a 2 week trip to India, taking pictures of the dirtiest neighborhoods and poorest people they can find, and posting their portfolio for helpful critique titled "India Part 1, 2, 3".

What the hell is the western world teaching them about India? Is that all they can see and find?

How about the Taj, the Red Fort, the biggest public rail transit system, the Akshar Dham, the desert, the folk dances, the festivals, the templesmosques, the entrepreneurs, the IITs, the Art Academies, the musicians, the neighbors watching out for each other's kids, the middle school geniuses who can count faster than a DSLR can snap pictures, as photography subjects? 

Give me a f$#$$*%g break!


  1. By the way Mr.Mitra, its because of these western photographers that we get to see the "real" India. Not the India that you tell your friends about in the US. Not the India that you are ashamed of. Not the India that you dont want to think about.
    Give me a godd** f&(*ing break !

    Only a person who doesnt have humanity OR the majority poor in India would feel offended and write such about the west. Btw, I myself an Indian and every time I go back to India I realize that the poor never get anything good.

    How can you walk in India without seeing poverty ? People like you who are consciously blind to the real world are a shame to the Indian nation and unfortunately the nation is run by shameless people like you!

    P.S The Taj, Red Fort and the public rail system were made by foreigners.

  2. Binoy: good points. But why do you need to see the 'real' India from the eyes of a western photographer? Do you feel proud to so the underprivileged, the poor, to people who are better off? Or do you expect the world to come pouring on you with 'help' and all you do is 'wait for someone to come help you'?

    I am strongly against showing your weak side for sympathy. Empowerment comes from within, not from having someone say 'hey I am poor. what do I do? help me...'.

    Tell me, what would you do in unfavorable situations? Let's say you were struggling as an individual, or as a family. Did you go on street and show the passersby your rags, get yourself photographed by a western tourist hoping he/she will fetch some UN help for you, or did you work hard and get to where you are? I grew up in adversities. And wherever I am today, it is because of perseverence, and hard work that our family taught us. We did not rely on 'foreign' help to be where we are.

    I reckon you please re-read what you wrote, and put it in perspective. It is one thing to be 'aware' of the truth and do something about it, and it is another to 'flaunt' your misfortunes just because you want the world to see it and 'aww' at it and throw pennies at you.

  3. One more thing: if you get to see the 'real' India via western photographers, you may want to reconsider why you want to be called 'Indian' from this moment.

  4. @Binoy

    The point she's trying to make is that there is more to Indian than just poverty. Yes - there is poverty. No one's denying that. But we're also doing a lot to lift people up. Just because you don't see it when you come back to India doesn't mean it's not happening.

    I've often noticed that it's NRIs who most often have the worst perception about India and in many cases are responsible for perpetuating stereotypes about it. It's almost as if they have a point to prove.

    We're a fantastic country in many ways. The problem is when people ignore everything except one aspect. This was one of the things that pissed me off about "Slum dog millionaire." Now every firang thinks that India has just poor people in it!


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