Colors of Faith still remains one my most prized and most sold photographs. However its not the recognition it got that amazes me, but the number of interpretations people have presented for the same photograph. While my friends in the advertising business called it a great material for marketing as half the frame offers free space for customization, the non profit organizations saw a positive vibe, hope, energy and representation of strength in the photograph that conveyed the message well for their campaigns/projects. I generally agree with all the interpretations i have come across, however none of those happened to be anywhere close to the idea i started with.
It all started in December 2014, when i was taking my baby steps in the world of photography. I had spent the initial 3 months learning techniques, following works of other photographers and of-course getting acquainted with my gear by clicking birds and flowers. I don’t have anything against those who do one or both. But I knew that i was doing nothing new. I have always been the kind who would challenge the norms and break the rules, with anything and everything i get to do to try and create something new and/or different that would make people stop and take a closer look at my work, well at the very least.
As an artist, I always strive to not be repetitive, and not do what others have already done. But in today’s world it is easier said than done. We carry a camera with us (cell phones) all the time. Millions click billions of photographs each day. So, I decided to give myself ample time to explore. However, as the time progressed, I became more and more restless., started doubting my creative abilities and almost gave up on photography. But i guess i was destined to be a photographer. So, I assume the stars probably aligned in my favor that day, when I was watching a concert on TV and the sight of a huge crowd cheering for the artist on stage, holding their flashing phones, arms up in air and waving, got me thinking.
I am sure, many of you would agree that, every photograph tells a story and if you remove the artist and dramatic environment from the photograph above, the crowd by itself does not have enough story to tell. But this is exactly where i decided to challenge the norm and create something out of the crowd itself that would make sense. I had a seed of thought now to work with and I was quite certain about the main element of my photograph at this point. So, I started brainstorming on the end result.
The Spiritual Connection
True to the quote, “The Best things in life are often found at most unexpected places…”, I found next 2 pieces of the puzzle at a place, where i didn’t expect to find them. Before i talk any further about how everything started to fit together in the frame, let me share a couple of things here. I am not super religious, but I am not an atheist either. Being a Hindu, whenever I can, I go to the ISKCON of Washington DC for evening prayer sessions. In one such session, 2 of the statues (Lord Chaitanya And Lord Nityananda), that i had seen number of times before, rang a bell. Take a look at the following picture and you, too, shall see why.
I was still trying to connect the dots when, towards the end of the prayer session, the devotees of Lord Krishna, true to the tradition and culture, began dancing as an offering of their love and devotion to the god. It was more than a mere coincidence that people were dancing in a manner similar to the way two statues posed. But was that enough for me to imagine the entire photograph in my head? No, it wasn’t.
Another couple of weeks went by. Winter gave way to Spring and the Indian Hindu Festival of Holi was around the corner. Every year, ISKCON of DC organizes a fabulous event called Holi DC to mark/celebrate the beginning of spring. While booking tickets for this event, I stumbled upon a video that event organizers shared on social media to promote the event. The video showcased a fun activity (Hourly Color Throw) wherein the crowd would gather around the performance stage and on a count of 10, throw handful of colors up in the air. Although the scene was filmed using a drone, that video turned out to be the final piece of the puzzle that i needed to finish the picture in my head. I knew exactly what i wanted, but it was about to get more challenging.
So, we come to the day when it all happened. I reached the venue, only to observe that the place was buzzing with people of all ages. The atmosphere was total fun but nothing short of a chaos. Each of the faces in the crowd were painted in different colors and patterns. The conditions were not suitable for photography. Colors (dry and wet) were flying all around and people were dancing and running all around in the crowd. I knew it was a terrible idea to try and click anything from a position in the middle of the crowd.
I looked around and I decided to climb the performance stage and settle down in the corner of the stage and Voila!. This position gave me the best possible view of the crowd, looking down, and allowed me to adjust the frame to my liking. Rest was all about timing and picking the right camera settings. I decided to go with the 50mm prime lens, F/7.1 to smoothen out the clouds of color a little bit, 1/1000 sec for sharpness and ISO-100. I edited 3 different clicks of the same scene (seen on the left) differently and the rest is history.
Some of the Accolades that my photos from “Colors” series have earned include
- Ranked amongst Top 10 international bestsellers – Year 2014 (Source)
- Ranked amongst Top 10 international bestsellers – Year 2015 (Source)
- One of the photos that contributed to over 10k in royalties (Source)
- Recognized as one of the bestselling image of all time (Source)
- Published in Digital Photographer Magazine UK – Issue 161
- Published in Practical PhotographyMagazine – June 2016 issue
- Featured in a special story by Nikon International
- Featured as Bing Wallpaper on March 15, 2017