Through the Eyes of Others: Photographs of India
Alan McIntyre Smith
  Alan McIntyre Smith

In January of 2005 I traveled to India to work on a feature film called Vanaja, which was the story of a young village girl who wants to learn how to dance. The production found an abandoned Raja's Palace near a farming village called Bobbili in the state of Andrah Pradesh and restored the building to working order, paving the way for two months of shooting in the surrounding area. During our few hours off, my coworkers and I would bike from village to village, meeting people and photographing them as they worked and lived.

With street photography I am usually interested in capturing moments without the subject's knowledge, but as Westerners in a rarely visited part of the country we were the attraction and the photographs became about our interaction and attempts at communication. We were treated to extended tours of the town's holy sites by a group of dozens of children, were invited into people's homes and farms and became guests of honor at a wedding.

Workers and their tasks has been a frequent subject I've pursued over the years and nowhere is the breakdown of labor more apparent than in a community like Bobbili. Women do much of the heavy work, walking miles with rocks on their heads, mixing and carrying cement at construction sites, working long hours in the fields, and yet their Sari's were always clean and colorful. Men worked as salesmen, jewlers, farm laborers, and rickshaw drivers while children herded cattle, worked on road crews and sold trinkets.

At all hours of the day and night people were working, which I came to discover was not only based on survival but was also a form of prayer. Worship through work is a meditation practiced by giving yourself over to the job at hand and doing it to the utmost of your ability and losing yourself in concentration. This attitude helped the population remain positive while dealing with strenuous conditions and we found it impossible to resist.

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