India Insight

from Photographers' Blog:

Born free

By Adnan Abidi

The joy of being born in a free country is a gift I received from those who sweat and bled in the struggle for Indian Independence. I accept the fact that I do very little to appreciate that gift. The most I do is fly a kite on August 15th, like many others. Quite a few of my fellow 'post-independence born' countrymen have little clue about the struggles our martyrs undertook to achieve what, today, we enjoy with much ingratitude. Freedom has been taken for granted.

The first struggle of Indian Independence was unknown to me, the second, as popular support named it, was the one I witnessed. It was when a 74-year-old Gandhinian, Anna, mobilized a crowd of over a million to crusade against corruption they say has infiltrated to the very roots of the Indian administration.

It was a much-watched movement that kept most of the country glued to their televisions for thirteen days. The media became a window for the 1.21 billion population. And I, as part of that window, got a chance to hold up Anna Hazare's campaign to the world. The call against corruption came on the same day that India achieved its independence back in 1947, and in the same month as Ramadan, which fell in August this year. Following tradition, I was celebrating my independence by flying a kite when I received two calls -- one from a fellow colleague, who informed me that Anna Hazare was praying at Rajghat, and the second from my Amma (mother), who asked me to get dates and fruits, traditionally eaten to end the day’s fast. I was at a crossroads and I had to choose my path.

Handing over the kite's string to my friend I rushed home, picked up my gear and headed to Rajghat, forgetting about the dates I was asked to bring. Mahatma Gandhi's memorial isn't a place I often visit unless on an assignment. So it was that day, when yet again I realized I was one of the last photographers to reach. I shot many frames from all possible angles.

Generations before me had witnessed the power of Indian media as it was instrumental in bringing about the required change. What follows is one such example.

from Photographers' Blog:

Barefoot in a recycled school

The environment hasn't been spared in India's headlong rush towards development and consumerism. With it came mounds of garbage, piles of waste that had nowhere to go, industrial pollutants that were fed straight back into the rivers and lakes that supply drinking water to millions.‬ Walking around the streets of any town in India, you don't get the feeling that care for the environment is on the top of anyone's list of priorities.‬



So it was with a little skepticism that I read about a school which claimed to be completely environmentally friendly. I made a plan to travel to Pune, about 190km (118 miles) from Mumbai, to take a look at the Aman Setu school, which means "bridge to peace". They claimed fantastic things - the buildings were environmentally friendly made entirely out of recycled and natural bits and pieces - they had their own vegetable garden for children - kids were allowed to run around barefoot.‬



What I found really was surprising. The "school" consisted of just a handful of buildings. Madhavi Kapur, who came up with the idea for the school, told me how they'd made the buildings - they'd taken old cement bags, commonly left over at many construction sites after buildings are made in India, and compacted them together with mud to make the rooms. One of the buildings was cone-shaped, others rectangular. Roofs were made out of old advertisement claddings. Ventilation was provided through disused plastic pipes.‬

Instead of using toxic paints and whitewashes, they used a mixture of cow dung, mud and water. I was told it's been traditionally used in India for centuries because strangely enough, a mixture of cow dung and water insect proofs buildings. Who would have thought?!? It smelled reasonably pleasant too, you wouldn't think you were standing somewhere were the floors and walls were plastered in cow dung.‬

from Photographers' Blog:

Fight for a frame

The digital revolution has its pros and cons; on one hand it has amplified the chance of getting a picture in a stampede-like situation and on the other, it has created the stampede-like situation. With the advent of digital technology, the number of publications and media houses has grown, in turn multiplying the number of cameramen and photographers present at an event. Yet it has also increased the number of picture possibilities which in the celluloid days were limited to 36 frames in a film roll. Good or bad there is no going back.

Ignoring my aching jaw, I scrolled through my images to see if I had got the picture, of India's former telecommunications minister Andimuthu Raja, accused in the 2G spectrum scam. It must have been an elbow of one of the many cameramen or photographers present who were struggling to get the same picture that struck me. I didn’t mind the pain as even my elbow hurt a bit. I was sure I wasn't the only one with a sore jaw, of late we photographers were accustomed to it.

Court assignments as we call them, isn’t an assignment a photographer is keen on doing. But it has become mandatory as the picture compliments the newspaper headlines - lately they were related to the 2G Spectrum scam, a $39.16 billion scam that shook the nation. One after another the suspects have been zeroed in as the Indian judiciary tightens the noose on everyone involved. Every now and then someone is produced in court and we photographers find ourselves in the similar stampede-like situations.

from Photographers' Blog:

Editing thousands of cricket pictures a day

Sports and Action photography is all about timing. It’s about reacting. It’s about being in the right place at the right time and it’s about execution.

India's Gautam Gambhir is bowled by Sri Lanka's Thisara Perera during their ICC Cricket World Cup final match in Mumbai April 2, 2011.                          REUTERS/Philip Brown

These are all qualities of the athlete and those of the photographer covering them as well. Each sport has predictable and unpredictable moments. For instance, in cricket, photographers will have opportunities to capture jump shots, players diving to make the crease, diving to take a catch, diving to field the ball, a bowler leaping in the air as he bowls, a batsman screaming in joy on reaching his century, etc. Understanding the timing of these predictable actions allows a photographer to capture the peak moment; when the action is most dramatic.

Before I start editing I always have a brief chat with the photographers about what could be the day’s great picture. The staff never fail to deliver and meet expectations. I briefed two photographers covering matches from the quarter-finals onwards not to forget to look for emotion in the players and the fans. A good number of the best shots come from the crowd. I received a bunch of nice pictures of the crowd from the final.

from Photographers' Blog:

Clash of two cricketing titans

The second quarter-final of the cricket world cup was a clash between two huge teams. India, the world's no. 1 team with its power batting lineup. Australia, three-time world champions who have reigned supreme over the game for 12 years. Whoever won, it would be a huge story. Whoever lost, it would be a huge story.

Police officers control a crowd of spectators outside Sardar Patel Stadium ahead of the Cricket World Cup 2011 quarter-final match between India and Australia, in Ahmedabad March 24, 2011.        REUTERS/Andrew Caballero-Reynolds

We headed to the stadium at around 10am, well before the 2.30pm start. Traffic was backed up a long way. There was only one road leading to it and we weren't sure if it was fans waving flags and blowing horns, buses and four wheel drives, scooters or the cops that were in charge. Fellow photographer Andrew Caballero-Reynolds got nervous because on his last 3 trips to stadiums, the vehicle he's been in has blown a tire. Lucky we made it in one piece. There were thousands of fans queuing in the searing heat to get into the ground, watched over by the usual stick-wielding police in khaki suits.

I installed a remote camera high on a TV tower above the stands, hooked up by usb cable to a laptop, both powered by a 25m extension cord we rented for 150 rupees (about 4 dollars) from a local shop that usually rents them out for weddings. The remote would capture the action from a different angle and would fire whenever I wanted it to from my field side position. I had the laptop running on a data card so the pictures would automatically be downloaded and transmitted to our editing system live, so that we didn't have to wait for the break inbetween innings to get the disk and edit pictures. It was going to provide some great pictures from the match.

from Photographers' Blog:

Cricket snippets

We're into March, and the ICC Cricket World Cup is well under way. Just 32 more days to go (yes, thirty-two!) until the tournament comes to a close with a final showdown in Mumbai on April 2.

Reuters' lean mean team of photographers have fanned out across three countries in the subcontinent - India, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka - as we get stuck into covering the first round of the tournament. Photographers Adnan Abidi, Andrew Biraj, Amit Dave, Andrew Caballero-Reynolds, Dinuka Liyanawatte, Rupak De Chowdhury, Danish Siddiqui and myself have started crisscrossing our territories. Philip Brown, who is on an "embed" with the English cricket team, has already covered two cities. Altaf Bhat in New Delhi is anchoring the operation as the main editor for the tournament with me lending a hand on days when I'm not on the move, shooting training or covering a match.

Covering cricket in the subcontinent is not as straightforward as one might think - for one thing, we're worried about tight travel schedules and the possibility of flight delays - which thankfully haven't happened yet.

from Photographers' Blog:

2011 Cricket World Cup: Let’s play

People stand in queue to buy tickets for the cricket World Cup in Dhaka January 2, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Biraj

As the cricket World Cup draws closer, the pulse rate of the players and their fans from the 14 participating nations is surely rising.

The build up to the quadrennial event, the equivalent of the FIFA soccer world cup, has been nothing short of spectacular. Despite the game grappling with a spot-fixing saga and an under-prepared Eden Gardens stadium in Kolkata losing the hosts a marquee match against England, the enthusiasm of having a “good game” seems to have taken over. Like the previous editions, the 10th ICC world cup will also see some of the great cricketers saying “Goodbye” to the gentleman’s game and all of them would want to lay their hands on the coveted trophy.

Fans will be seeing Ricky Ponting, Muthaiah Muralitharan, Sachin Tendulkar and probably Jacques Kallis for the last time at a world cup but it will be Sachin, who will want to etch his name on the winners’ trophy more than anyone else. The master blaster has achieved almost everything that is there to achieve in the game of cricket but the world cup has remained elusive.

from Photographers' Blog:

India’s touring cinemas under threat

The sleepy Indian village of Ond comes alive for a week every year when trucks loaded with tents and projectors reach its outskirts. The tents are pitched in open fields, converting the trucks into projection rooms for screening the latest Indian blockbusters to exuberant villagers, who otherwise have few chances to see a film at all.

Photographer Danish Siddiqui travels to these "talkies" to document the decades-old tradition. View the multimedia below for an in-depth look or click here to read the full story.

Travelling Talkies from Vivek Prakash on Vimeo.

from Photographers' Blog:

Before a ball is bowled

Reuters Photographer Parivartan Sharma takes us to the town of Meerut, north of Delhi, where cricket balls are still being made the old-fashioned way - by hand. India, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh will co-host the 2011 Cricket World Cup starting on February 19.

The Making Of A Cricket Ball - Cricket World Cup Preview from Vivek Prakash on Vimeo.

from Photographers' Blog:

Left teary-eyed after an onion attack

Onions have been a very important part of Indian history. Governments have fallen here over the price of onions. So last week when our commodities correspondent Rajendra Jadhav suggested a story on the skyrocketing prices of vegetables, onions seemed the natural peg. The idea was to do something simple around the price of a vegetable as it changes from the field to the dinner table. Our destination was the wholesale onion market in Nashik, Maharashtra, one of the highest producers of onions in the country. Nothing had prepared us for what we were about to encounter.

Female labourers work in an onion field in Pimpalgaon, 215 km (133 miles) north of Mumbai January 23, 2010.  REUTERS/Danish Siddiqui

On Monday, prices of onions nose-dived over a ban on exports by the government and the arrival of new stock through imports. Unaware of this, we went to the onion market in Lasalgaon.

Upon reaching the location, both Rajendra and I got busy. I photographed the way onions were being loaded on small tractors. We then moved to the other side of the market where the auction was to take place. But here something unexpected happened - we were greeted by angry farmers who accused us, the media, of pushing prices down; we were the only two there at the time.

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