My Best Shot
October, 2009 Varanasi, India Nikon D3x
Discover the poignant image that is travel pro Steve Davey’s favourite shot
Of the 90 countries that Steve Davey has visited for the world’s best-known travel magazines, one stands out as his favourite. “India,” he says without hesitation. “Photographically, it’s stunning, partly because the people really get photography. They get why you want to photograph them and they tend to really enjoy being photographed.”
Five years ago, he was in the back streets of the holy city of Varanasi, looking for a café. “I’d been out on a boat with a group on the Ganges to see the sunrise over the river.” It was now mid-morning and Steve spied a little beggar boy, dressed as Shiva, the Hindu god of creation and destruction. “He was standing with his hand raised as Shiva is usually depicted, but with these sad eyes. He didn’t rush out. He looked frail and was quite subdued, which is odd for a beggar.”
Because the boy was standing still, Steve had time to compose the picture in the way that matched how he visualised this image on first seeing the boy. “When I instruct people about composition I tell them to stop and think about what they are trying to say and what tools they should use in order to say it. So, it’s the choice of lens, the viewpoint,” he says. Steve chose the wide end of his Nikon 24-70mm f/2.8 zoom and a high viewpoint to emphasize the boy’s face and hand. An aperture of f/5 reduced depth of field so his eyes are in focus, and the tin of coins in his other hand defocused yet recognisable.
Although the picture is one of Steve’s favourites, it hasn’t been a commercial success. “I think all photographers have their favourite shots that they love and they keep putting them out there – and they keep getting knocked back! Maybe that’s one of the reasons I like it.”
While beggars in India are willing to play to the camera, Little Lord Shiva was withdrawn. “There are other street urchins who are laughing, chatting, and you know they are going to do quite well in life, but this kid looks so frail. To be honest, there aren’t many people who want pictures of begging children. It’s not going to make it into a travel brochure. It’s not the image publishers want to show. I keep being asked for a hackneyed shot of sunrise over the Ganges!”