The story behind the Blurry Bike...
In the streets of Calcutta, monsoon wet and filled with honking weaving traffic, I stared down at the digital screen of my camera and cursed picture after picture being replayed before me. I was as wet as the streets. My shirt clung to me, heavy with rain and sweat, and my thoughts clung to me too, begging comprehension, before being whisked away in the din of people and cars and noise. I had been in India for just over a week and I was completely overwhelmed.
I liked to think of myself as an intrepid world traveler, an adventurer, a competent photographer, but as I reviewed my images and felt my nerves fraying I felt like none of these things. I felt alone in a foreign world, a clumsy beginner with a camera again, unable to take a single snapshot that I even half liked. As disappointment crept in - disappointment with my art, with myself - I thought despondently about how excited I had felt when the opportunity to live in India first arose, and how completely intimidated I now felt instead.
I was no stranger to travel. Prior to India I had spent four years living nomadically, had felt 'at home' on three continents, and I was no stranger to the third world either. So it was with no small amount of hubris that, despite all I had heard about India being a difficult place to travel, I had spent the months before this trip only in eager anticipation. I had imagined all the fascinating things I would see and how good it would feel to quench that interminable thirst of wanderlust, a malady from which I have always enjoyably suffered, in a place so far from home. I had imagined how much my portrait photography would improve by living in a country that was home to one sixth of the entire world's population. I had imagined all the amazing landscapes I would capture in picture after picture of crisp details and perfect exposure, vibrant colors amid bright sun. I had imagined all these things, but things were not turning out as I had imagined.
Instead of being in the grand adventure I imagined, I was on a dirty street corner, overwhelmed and mad at myself. It had taken me until now to even feel comfortable taking my camera with me on a walk through my new neighborhood. I had made the poor decision of bringing a fairly slow zoom lens and under the clouds of the summer monsoon season I just couldn't seem to give it enough light. Nor did it seem that I could hold it still. My images were all blurry and as I stood on the corner reviewing them I bitterly hit the delete button on image after image. I felt my high aspirations vanish along with each rejected picture and then the memory card was empty and I was left staring at a blank screen. In that moment after there were no more images left to delete, I realized something. I realized something that changed not only the rest of my trip, but my trajectory as an artist as well.
I realized that my entire experience of India up to that point was a blur. The pictures were right. The problem wasn't with the images, it was with me. I'd come to India so full of the experience that I wanted to have that I wasn't open to the experience that was really there. India was indeed about motion, confusion, chaos and blur. I had spent the whole day increasing ISO settings and shutter speeds trying to stop the motion, stop the reality of my experience, that it was no wonder that my pictures didn't ring true. In trying to make the images that I had seen in my imagination I was blind to the images that were really there.
I looked out again into the street. I took in the sidewalks overflowing with people, the unmarked lanes overflowing with cars and the stalls overflowing with goods. I gave up trying to stand still and dodged through the mayhem. I gave up the quest for the unobstructed view, the struggle for the stop motion exposure and I went the other direction. I set my shutter speed slow and took a long tracking shot of a bicycle as it sped past me. And when I looked at the result it was the first time that a picture didn't just look right to me but it felt right too. There on the screen, in a blur of color and frenetic motion, was truly my India. It turned out that it might not be the grand adventure I had imagined, but it was indeed a grand adventure after all.
Later, when I decided to pursue photography professionally and open my own studio it just seemed fitting to name it after that image taken in India. It's not the image out of my portfolio that everyone chooses as a favorite, but it's the image that I find I keep coming back to in one way or another in my work. It's the image that reminds me the difference between looking and seeing, and the difference between liking a picture and feeling it. It's the image that reminds me that there are unexpected surprises to be found when our travels, both geographical and psychological, take us to those uncomfortable places that challenge how we thought things would be or should be.
There has been much traveling involved in making the images you see on this website, both through the charted territories that dot the globe as well as through the uncharted nebulous areas of my thoughts. I hope that somewhere in these pages, in the text and the images, is something that might take you on a journey as well; perhaps to a place where your own thoughts dance through your mind in a blur of beautiful color like a bicycle on a Calcutta street.
All the best,