HUMAN BY NATURE – KERALA, INDIA
Kerala, also known as ‘God’s own country’, was a destination that produced marvels around each corner and unique experiences each and every day of my two-week journey. What stood out to me the most during my time in Kerala was the friendly and unique characters I met along the way. The Keralites are some of the most genuine and friendly people in the world.
I walked the streets, wandered down the alleys, clambered up mountains and trudged through the mud to meet a number of the characters I was fortunate enough to photograph. Often the photograph that resonates with me the most from a specific trip is the photo with a little story behind it. This was a journey to capture the human nature of Kerala. I wanted to show the essence of a Keralite through my photography. The photos were all taken without any set-up, posing or preparation as I wanted to capture the true feeling of Kerala.
Often the photograph that resonates with me the most from a specific trip is the photo with a story behind it. Many of these photos have a little story behind them, often providing a snippet into someone’s life. I will share some of the stories from these moments below the photographs.
I visited a nature park which offered elephant rides to tourists and tours of the local plants, herbs, and spices in the park. While riding animals isn’t something I am interested in being a part of, it is a job and a way of life for hundreds of elephant owners and trainers across India. This trainer stood by his elephants while posing and resting his head on theirs throughout the half-hour I was with him. They stood together silently in a moment of rest.
Exploring around the streets of Kochi was a colorful experience full of action. When I first met this young boy in his Barcelona jersey and underpants, he shouted at me to get my attention but then he got shy and ran back to the wall of his house. He was still smiling and I shot a few photos as he clutched the hand of his sister. I tried to give him a high-five but despite a nod from his mom, he was too scared. I said goodbye and headed down the alley but after a few seconds, he shouted at me again from the end of the alley almost enticing me to stick around. I crouched down and extended my hand for a high five from the end of the alley. He took a few tentative steps, looked back at his mother and then he committed, sprinting down give me a high five and skipped back to his mom.
Walking through the streets of Fort Cochin, it is impossible not to pass some wise characters. When I headed over to chat with an old man I had no idea I was about to the subject of his art. He asked me to take a photo of him and his friend before telling me to give him a pen and paper. I obliged and then he ordered me to stare at the purple shutter right in front of me. Not quite sure what was going I did so. Three minutes passed and my friend and I were laughing and talking about how ridiculous I look, staring at a wall only a foot away from my nose. At one stage his friend even told me to shut up for two minutes! His drawing is actually quite good but he assured me if he had his better glasses the drawing would have been much better.
Taking photos of women in Kerala, India requires a little more tact than shooting men. Kerala is home to many different religions who live harmoniously. With each religion comes different customs and often different levels of enthusiasm and extroversion. Women with small children and babies often ask to have their photo taken with their young one. Pride pours out of their smiles in these photos.
A local fish market in Fort Cochin is full of hard work, smells of fish and sweat and you can feel the hustle. The energy within the market was infectious and the groups of men working together were sharing jokes and had a real zest for life.
I stumbled upon a group of kids playing soccer in the street with a ball made from tape. I joined them in the hot afternoon sun for a while before they decided to show me their talents. The boys seemed to want to one-up each other for the camera and were skidding on the bikes around the corners before they moved on to the acrobatics show where everyone was all about the cartwheels!
The colors of the Indian flag seemed to creep into a lot of the portraits I took. I’m not sure if these color choices were intentional or luck. If you are wondering why on earth anyone would dye their hair orange, I was told it was to hide the grey hairs.
At the Chinese fishing nets, I found the most interesting things going on were behind the nets. Stalls selling fish, chai tea and ornaments were manned by some of the most interesting characters I saw throughout the entire trip.
People are more affectionate in India, especially the men. It isn’t uncommon to see two men holding hands walking down the street or with their arms around each other. Many times when I was about to take a photo someone would rush off to grab their best mate and it made the moment much more special. I got to see a lifetime bond in so many situations.
The Chinese fishing nets are something I had never seen before. Huge contraptions that haul in big nets multiple times a day, hopefully, full of fish. The men working these nets sit in fishing huts in between hauls hoping their next catch will be bigger than the last.
Here are the final portraits I took while in Kerala. It truly is one of the most vibrant places with such a rich history and culture.
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