CHENNAI PHOTO WALK
What’s common between four policemen, three auto drivers, a fireman, a milk delivery man, a buttermilk delivery man, a flower seller, a parish priest and assorted general busybodies? They are all uniformly curious as to what a disparate bunch of people with bulky cameras hanging around their necks was up to so early in the morning around the streets of Madras. This was my first photo walk with the Chennai photo walkers group. I have previously done long- three to four hours Madras walks, but they were always solo’s. I have pretty much explored all of George town, Mylapore, Triplicane, Egmore, Kilpauk, etc…but this was a pretty interesting destination proposed this time- Periamet and Vepery, areas which I have passed through on my way past to either Central or Purasawalkam. And here was a chance to explore it with a group of professional photographers.
When it comes to photography, I am strictly an amateur. Although I appreciate the fine work done by other photographers I have never progressed beyond a simple automatic point and click model. But I remember reading somewhere on the web that a good photograph is not taken – it is first seen through the photographers eye and then a copy is taken with the camera- which sounded perfectly sensible advice to me. If you don’t see it, the chances of your taking it perfectly- are purely out of luck. You might get lucky a few times but not always. And so even though I would love to upgrade to a bigger DSLR camera, I have kept postponing that gratification until the budget permits and carry on just fine with what I have- a simple multipurpose slim Nikon auto- which I can carry unobtrusively in my pockets to the hospital for taking patient photos- before/after.
So, on a calm Sunday morning, early morning at five, I was up, shaving and showring like my usual six days a week routine and was out of the house by 5:30AM for the six am rendezvous at Sydenhams road, beside Ripon building. Ripon Building is now closed down due to the Metro Rail work and we were not permitted to shoot photos of it, so we set off down the road to Periamet Mosque, shooting pics all along the way. The sky on a summer day was surprisingly overcast and the sun refusing to come out it was actually quite pleasant to walk on the roads without sweating. A few of the photographers who met old acquaintances from previous walks kept peeling off to catch up with events over a cup of hot tea on the numerous open tea shops which dotted the way, but as I was new to the group, I stayed close to the organizers and tried to learn more about the art of photography.
By now this had attracted the attention of the above mentioned officious policemen, auto-men and all others who kept stopping us and enquiring who we were and what we were doing. As the non-photographer of the group, walking about with free hands while the others were absorbed in world of their own with total concentration, I was assumed to be the chaperon of the group and the enquiries were directed at me ad I spent a very profitable days morning work by inventing highly wild stories for what we were doing and seeing if they would pass muster based on the gullibility of the listener. Except for the police, who I told the truth about being a group of photo-enthusiasts, for the others it was pure fun inventing cover stories on the spur of the moment and leaving them impressed/puzzled. Luckily, none of the absorbed photographers happened to overhear the cover stories I was giving them or the high build-up I was giving the entire photo walk. I am sure there would have been a lot of anecdotes shared at various homes tonight by people who will claim that they witnessed something unique…
In the rare intervals that I remembered that I too was on a photo walk, I pulled out my auto and clicked off a few shots of interesting things like the one where there was an old fashioned cycle stand which I have never seen out of a movie, a flower seller who requested me to click him after we spent a few minutes chatting about his business, a very fine old church-St.Mathias of Vepery and a lot of comical advertisements and shop boards..By then we had reached the end point of our walk Doveton café, where after polishing off a hot, hot, Masala Dosa/filter coffee combo – we all split for him promising to meet again next month for the next walk. All in all, a pretty unique experience for me, to walk with a group and try to chat up random strangers on the street, trying to get a few glimpses of their lives. More than the photos or the buildings, what I remember with pleasure is all the talks I had with people you don’t normally get to meet and chat. A Quite satisfying day.