“Two Hours” – said the repairer with a sorry look on his face, where I left my car for AC repair. It was a burning hot day and industrial area is not really a great place to be at, at such soaring temperature. He advised me to take a cab and go home and return back later to collect the car. Though it sounded like a good idea, I had some better plans. Had my Fujifilm X100S (thanks to Fujifilm Middle East for giving it to me for a test run) , with this gorgeous camera in hand, industrial area just seemed to be a perfect hang out spot to date this gorgeous beauty.
It was around 3pm when I started my walk across the industrial area and it was more or less like a maze. Even before I could figure out where I started from, I was lost. This directionless journey got me to a scrapyard, which almost felt like a mortuary of cars. Skeletons of cars filled the whole area as far as your eyes could see. As I dug into this area, from one garage to the other, I wasn’t feeling comfortable to start shooting. People here work in such extreme conditions and doing such hard labour, I just couldn’t convince myself to sneak and shoot candids. I decided to go the other way around, made up my mind to talk to them, know them and have a good long chat before I could actually start making photographs of theirs.
Intention of the whole shoot was pretty simple – to show life as it is. These people work so goddamn hard to earn their living. No comfort of AC – No comfort what-so-ever. Just few hours of photowalk through these alleys almost got me to my knees – completely exhausted and dehydrated. But these people go through this every single day. But as I started mingling with them, It was turning out to be a very pleasing experience for me to make them feel important by taking their photographs – they were not just clicks – they were much more than that. I would be presenting these stories in a series of blogs, rather than just one. This is Page # 1 of the diary, more pages to follow. Here is the first story.
As I walked through, I came across a guy named Uttam from Bangladesh, who was welding some car parts. (I seriously have no clue what they were welding, why they were welding, where those parts would finally fit and no clue if even the techincal term for what they were doing was ‘welding’). As I approached him, he stopped what he was doing and pulled the mask over and asked me which newspaper I was from. When on Streets, I been asked this question n number of times before. Convincing him that it was for my personal project was an easy task. As I continued chatting with him, I finally asked for his permission to shoot his portrait. He was shy and half heartedly refused. Like Don Vito Corleone (Marlon Brando) famously quoted in Godfather “I’ll make him an offer he can’t refuse” , I did offer this person something he couldn’t refuse I offered to not only shoot his portrait BUT also offer him the print of his photograph. Now he was definitely interested and result is what you see below. BTW do check out the way fuji X100S paints with light, it is just unbelievable. You help it meter the light and it nails it – Period.
I was totally satisfied with the portrait and so was he. But I had the urge to shoot his portrait as he did his work. He agreed to it and he got back to his routine. This part was tricky and technical. I had an image in mind – to have the person lit by only the lights from the light emitted by welding and have the background lit by ambient light. Also I wished to have a low key exposure for the main subject with loads of darks. As I thought about it, I remembered what I learnt from flash photography. Ignore the subject to be filled by flash and expose for your ambient light. Once you get the ambient right, get your subject into the picture by filling them with flash. Confused !?!?!?! Let me break it for you with examples,
As you see in the image above, the main subject is in absolute dark ( as he is supposed to be exposed only by the light emitted by welding sparks) and I have worked on getting my background light (ambient/natural light) well exposed to have that warm hue in the outdoors.
In this shot, the setting remained the same as above, f2.8 at 1/250s. As he started welding, the light emitted filled the main subject with just enough light to expose him (while the background light remained constant as in the pic above). This theory of mixing ambient light with flash light is basically the thumbrule to get great shots outdoors when shooting with flashes/strobes. Here my flash was not a Nikon/Canon but something even better than them – The Welding Light – Super powerful and no expensive pocket wizards required Though I dont do much strobist work, the knowledge acquired could somehow be applied here.
I would be going back to Uttam this weekend (27th April 2013) to hand over the print of his portrait. Will be documenting the reaction of Uttam as he sees them ( he wishes to mail the print to his daughter back home) and load the video footage to the blog in the coming days – as I said – this is a series of blogs interconnecting each other.
UPDATE : Yes, I did go back to this person on 27th April as promised to keep my word. Handed over the print of his photograph. Here’s how it looked
It was a rainy day in Dubai. He was considerably free – thanks to the lazy climate and given they work outdoors without a roof over their head, most of the workers had gathered around to have some leisure time. My entry was something he didn’t really expect – atleast on this rainy day. Though had my GoPro mounted on my Fuji X100s and though it was recording the events as I handed over the print and shot his picture with the print, I somehow got carried away with the proceedings and realised only when reviewing the video at home later that day that I didn’t do a decent job in documenting the whole process. Nevertheless I will try working on the video soon and hope for the best. I am not even close to being upset about screwing the video – I lived the moment and thats all matters.
Here’s the round up of the images shot over a weeks gap.
Special thanks to my good friend, fellow blogger and a passionate photographer Vineet Suthan who helped me with printing of these images.
So thats it for Page # 1 of Scrapyard Diaries. More pages to follow.
Dont just click – Click to make a difference – One person at a time