Holi in India is known as the festival of colour. It is indeed very colourful and very photogenic. There’s already a plethora of images of this festival from various places of celebration. If I travel to a country, I try to be aware of what’s out there photographically. In this case, it wasn’t hard – the images are everywhere. Just have to Google Holi.
Many of the images you find are pretty similar. People covered in coloured powder smiling. Groups throwing powder at each other. Close up portraits of people covered in powder and so on. In a sense, these have become the post-card images for Holi.
I wanted to capture something a little different and I got my opportunity in a small village along a road in Bundi region. There was loud music and the villagers were going nuts dancing, partly because some of them had consumed bhang. The atmosphere wasn’t the typical, innocent, happy family fun. There was a bit of an edge to it all. The whole thing was more like a group bhang-induced trance.
Main reasons I think it works
Minimalist framing, the moment and the light are what makes this photo work for me. I framed pretty tight, so you can't see the entire setting. Instead, there's a collection of dancing hands and heads. It's not clear who the limbs belong to. Everything is a bit chaotic.
It was important to get the timing right, to capture the gestures and the expressions at a moment when they were representative of what was happening. Because I did this, it is clear that they're really moving, dancing. The boy in the front with his eyes closed in particular seems to be in a trance-like state.
The light was strong and cast harsh, deep shadows. There's one at the back of the frame. It hides many potentially distracting elements, but this actually helps me with the minimalist approach. Less elements – less confusion.
The shadows on the faces give the photo a rough and raw feel. The mood is the opposite of some of the romantic and glamourised images of Holi. Because I was going for something a little different, I was quite pleased with that.
Most important tip
Over the years I’ve learned that if there’s a lot happening in a scene and things are looking chaotic, it’s wise to find a visual anchor of sorts and to at least try framing really tight around it.
Here I’ve got the boy in the front as the anchor. The scene still has a chaotic feel to it. I'm still communicating the essence of what's going on. However, framing tighter has made the image much easier for the viewer to process. If I had included more of what was happening, there could have been too much chaos, information overload. It would have been easier for the viewer to disengage than to keep on looking and of course we never want that.
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