Take better travel photos
Winner Wanderlust of the Travel Photo of the Year 2017 Portfolio category, Sanghamitra Sarkar shows us how to give a sense of people and place
Sanghamitra Sarkar – winner of Wanderlust Travel Photo of the Year 2017 Portfolio category – on getting the most from your black-and-white shots
The Ramnami are low-caste Hindus in the eastern state of Chhattisgarh, India. They first began tattooing their bodies and faces more than 100 years ago as an act of devotion, as well as defiance at being denied entry to local temples – they were also forced to use separate wells.
These communities are followers of the Ramnami Samaj religious movement, and the act of tattooing the Hindu god Ram’s name on their bodies is a message to highercaste Indians, to remind them that god is everywhere regardless of any social standing. Captivated by their devotion, I wanted to convey their dedication. To this day, they maintain their century-old practice of inking their bodies – and even their faces – with the name of the deity Ram, despite the immense pain that these tattoos inflict.
I went to the Bastar region to get this series of shots without any special equipment other than my camera. The result, I hope, is a selection of photographs that pay homage to these people and tell their amazing story.
You can see more winners of our Photo of the Year competition on p116 and a highly commended entry from our Portfolio category on p144
2 Think about the crop
The objective of my project was to display the tattoo marks of the Ramnami community. I wanted people to realise just how extensive they can be, so I cropped the pictures accordingly to showcase them at their most capitivating. Nikon D750, 24-120mm f/4 @ 38mm, 1/125 sec @ f/4, ISO 1000
3Ask for permission
You should always ask if it’s OK to take someone’s picture before you do so; that way you get better, more intimate shots through eye contact. I asked the permission of both the subjects and the heads of their respective villages. Canon EOS 5D Mark III, EF 70-200mm f/2.8 @ 102mm, 1/125 sec @ f/2.8, ISO 400
1Why black & white?
Shooting photos in B&W to make them more interesting is an old trick, but it works here, as it shows how every inch of their bodies, from their arms and legs to their eyelids and tongue, are tattooed. The ink is black, so the monochrome makes the tattoos look more prominent. Nikon D750, 24-120mm f/4 @ 46mm, 1/45 sec @ f/4, ISO 1000
4 Look for texture
Ramnami community members are frequently seen in fabric printed with the name of their deity and various mantras at spiritual gatherings. I wanted to give a sense of place by using the fabric’s texture and patterns alongside their tattoos. Nikon D750, 24-120mm f/4 @ 50mm, 1/45 sec @ f/4, ISO 1000
5Tell a story
Though very difficult to tell the whole story of the Ramnami in just five images, I selected those that best emphasised their devotion, through a mixture of younger and older subjects and both close-ups and longer shots. Nikon D750, 24-120mm f/4 @ 38mm, 1/500 sec @ f/4, ISO 500