Book Fifty-six


There is a conflict in all these books between photography and writing. You might think that, in India, the writing would preserve the fresh experience of the place — especially, as happened on this trip, when I encountered so many new things, peoples, and places. But that’s not true. The writing tends to be a record of facts. Arrived here, stayed there, flew somewhere else. Encounters. The metaphor and perspective all seems to come later. There is not much time on these journeys to sit overlong in introspection. The best time for contemplation is on the road, driving. But even then I dare not look down two long for fear I will miss some spectacle.

In this book I discovered that the best time to take notes was while driving. A smart phone made this possible. Writing with a pen is not practical in a moving car, but typing into the phone seems to work. I print out the notes and paste them into the book. I also work with small passport-sized notebooks. When someone gives you a useful piece of information, the small book is always at hand. This trip was another made to research the Banjara - so the collection of information was very important. I made the cover and painted it before the trip. It is a painting, but shows the Banjara approach to geometry.

On this trip I encountered the Gujar for the first time. They are nomadic pastoralists, and if you are on the road at the right time of year you will see them with massive flocks of sheep, goats, and camels. We met them by accident one day in Maheswar. People knew we were looking for the local Banjara and one day someone came running up saying “There are some Banjara comming down the road!” The women have long flowing skirts and they wear the imitation ivory armbands that some of the Banjara wear. But these were not Banjara - they were Gujar.

Since that first meeting we have seen many of them moving along the road. We often stop and talk briefly with them (they must keep moving due to the animals). Charllotte and I are trying to put together a picture of who they are and how they herd.

Tim McLaughlin

Photographer and writer based in Vancouver, Canada