I was doing some photo-editing tonight because I have a great idea for a post I find amusing (which is how I typically try to roll) when I was taken completely unaware by an emotional reaction to one of the photographs. It was powerful enough to prompt me to post this, without much thought, without much craft, and throw something relatively off-the-cuff on here.

(Also, I’ve had a giant glass of wine tonight (um, at least) and that makes me both more dramatic and more careless than usual.)

My dad had specifically requested more pictures of humans, because, as he put it, “That’s what I picture India as. People. People everywhere.” I have a real tendency to attempt to scrub a photograph of the humanity of a place. I’d rather have composed architectural lines where the architect, at least, was composing deliberate beauty than the unpredictable messiness of personhood, especially in quantity. If I crop out the humans, I de facto clean up aesthetics I don’t find appealing: the fanny pack, the disheveled hair, the chewing gum, the clash of unmonitored emotions, the disregard for form and function that most humans display, and so on and so forth. It’s like sweeping the litter out of a photo.

But because I know my dad is right – that it’s the faces and the nuances and the dirt-under-the-fingernails of the humans that make the layers of a place compelling – tonight I was sifting through my photographs of Agra that included the peoples.

And I came across this picture. One I never intended to take. I had been quick clicking, attempting to capture the serenity of this lovely auntie, standing half in the shadows and half in the sun, and didn’t even realize this is what I captured until tonight.

And this photograph is everything I don’t know how to say yet about my time in India.


It’s all the things. It’s the dignified woman in her beautiful sari completely unaffected and deliberately unaware of anything else under the ancient walls of the Red Fort of Agra as all three of the men gawk at the white woman. It’s her grace. It’s the unintended capture of the head swivel always prompted by being a white woman in India, camera aimed that way or no. It’s the divide between cultures. It’s my uncertainty and foreignness, anchored by the utter implacability of the woman who has stood her ground for decades. It’s strength and courage. It’s presumption and assumption. It’s accident and revelation.


This isn’t the picture I was trying to take either. But it stands hand-in-hand with the other, and in it she is perfect to me.

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