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

Wanderlust Travel Magazine (UK) - - Contents -

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

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