Bananas & Street Photography

Street photography of my banana dealer at the local market in Chaudi, some twenty minutes or so from Agenda Beach in south Goa. What you don’t see or feel from the picture is the heat. Sauna level heat.

It’s the start of the monsoon season in South East Asia and unlike most westerners visiting India this time of year, the savvy locals dress loosely, keep relatively still and don’t seem to be nearly as discomforted by the humidity.

I remember adopting the same slow-paced mode when we were living on Koh Samui back in 2006. And a few years ago, during our prolonged stay in Bangkok, I would inevitably pace myself whilst moving outdoors. Especially in situations where there was little shade or even worse, no way to escape the scorching sun.

Truth be told, I had to negotiate with the woman above for her to agree to let me take a few street photography portraits. I paid a small premium for the batch of bananas and she posed for me. I tried to get her to smile, but apparently, that was not part of our contract.

This street photography shot was taken with the Zeiss 85mm at f1,8 and ISO 400 using the new Sony a7III. After importing the image to Lightroom Classic, I converted it to black and white using SilverFX and made just a few minor adjustments to brightness and contrast before exporting it to Photoshop CC where a few more tweaks were made. I’m one of those photographers that doesn’t like using higher ISOs. But ISO 400 looks really, really great.

Grandma Agnes’s eyes

Often when I photograph older women and particularly with the above shot, I am reminded of my maternal grandmother, Agnes Andersson, a farmer’s wife and mother of four who lived most of her life on the outskirts of a small city called Trollhättan in Sweden.

Agnes projected so much of her soul through here eyes. And I want to remember her look as being both serious and mild – yet never contemptuous or distrustful.

Like my banana dealer, Agnes’ eyes had seen and recorded a lifetime of happiness, sadness and tragedy. Of her four daughters, Solveig (my mother), Elvy, Lillian and Lillemor, only one remains alive today. At least as far as I know. An adopted son passed away just a couple of months ago.

As I look at the market woman, I wonder what her life has been like. Whats stories would she choose to share with me. What universal wisdoms would she convey – if we could connect and speak in a common tongue.

Street Photography vs Landscapes

I think there’s a level of surmountable anxiety involved in street photography. I thoroughly enjoy the genre, but don’t always feel up to the ineludable invasion of privacy associated with it. A prerequisite for taking “honest” portraits, regardless of where they are shot, is connecting with your subject on some level. There needs to be a mutual agreement that there are – if not objective, than at least honest intentions at hand.

It happens once in a while, but I rarely pay my subjects in any tangible currency. Instead, I either spend a few minutes with them and then, when the time feels right, ask for a short portrait session. Or, in more sporadic situations, where there is limited time to capture a unique yet fleeing moment or situation, I’ll flip on a huge American smile and nod intently their way – as if to coerce them into letting me take just a few quick shots. I’d say both methods work equally well. I’ve been rejected hundreds of times, but only once do I remember feeling a little threatened and being chased away by a woman that misinterpreted my nodding as an agreement of something entirely different.

Interestingly, of all my photographs, the ones of locals in their natural environments provide me with the fastest path to recollecting a particular trip. Using some fuzzy logic, I would then argue that the connections I make with my subjects help create a more vibrant neural path to my personal cloud storage facility – located a few centimeters behind my eyes – then say, a landscape or architectural image.

Map to Chaudi

I got Delhi Belly in Sri Lanka

Somehow, somewhere and from someone (or something) I got this unbelievably persevering, discombobulating belly bug. I know not of how it entered my body nor is there any logic to its schedule. It just arbitrarily decides when it’s time to afflict my digestive system with painful cramps and ultimately, create an emergency need for a toilet. Does coffee trigger an attack? Probably. Have I stopped drinking coffee temporarily? Nope. Does the monkey above have anything whatsoever to do with this piece? No. But, when I shot it yesterday on the patio of our hotel which is nestled in the hill outside Kandy, it kinda looked like I feel today. Confused and discomforted.

As I am currently in Asia, where, for the most part, toilet hygiene – for whatever reason – does not reside on a top ten list of things to prioritize, finding a reasonably sanitized WC to relieve myself – often with extremely short notice – is in itself an almost insurmountable challenge with an uncertain outcome. Correction: the outcome is definitely certain (and certainly fluid).

Case in point: yesterday afternoon while exploring Kandy, I felt a irrevocable surge emerging from below my belt. Luckily, we quickly found a nice little downtown cafe with an unoccupied, albeit filthy toilet that had to suffice – considering the circumstances. I spent a good twenty minutes in there – hoping I wouldn’t leave sicker than when I walked in.

This morning, I woke up at 3:00 a.m. and then again at 5:00 a.m. panicking and with razor sharp cramps followed by several volcanic eruptions, wide-angle, buttocks spraying acid showers and eventually, a mild case of PTSD (posttraumatic stress disorder). It was as if I had just run a marathon.

I spent four months working in Bangkok last spring and traveled to both India and Morocco this past fall. Three destinations where I could easily have gotten sick – but didn’t. And over the last 20 or so years, I’ve visited Asia and Africa many, many times without catching even a hint of a stomach flu. Sure, I’ve had a few occasions with, “Houston, we’re out of control” level bowel movements. Just in passing, though…and usually after a real spicy meal or too many fermented beverages. In fact, I don’t think I’ve been hit this violently since the first few days of a visit to Goa, India, way back in the spring of 1997. So, I suppose that given the amount of opportunities I could of gotten sick but didn’t, I should be thankful.

Knock, knock!

Someone keeps knocking on my door. The staff obviously wants to clean the room. The toilet may need some extra attention today. Just sayin’…

Before I leave the security of my room and its conveniently adjacent toilet, I’ll pop a few more Imodium pills and hope they put a cork on/in the situation.

Usually, laughter is the best medicine…except when treating diarrhea.