Insta India



Somebody, I forget who exactly,  ( I will Google it in a minute ) said something like;

“The point of photography is to teach us to see”.

For the past 6 months or so I’ve been posting to Instagram on a regular (almost daily) basis. Mostly these are images of life in Chennai and in particular around my neighbourhood of Besant Nagar. Essentially they are vignettes of the stuff of everyday life here that I see when I’m out for a walk or taking an auto ride or whatever. So they are very much of the moment and a bit of an eclectic mix of  street-photography/portraits/documentary. I tag the collection ‘Insta India’.

For a long time I had ignored Instagram as just another Social Meeja gimmick that was mainly for kids who want to post selfies, and whilst it’s true that for many, Instagram is just that, it’s also surprising (or it was to me at least) just how many great images and photographers there are on Instagram. And OK it’s a format which is best suited to viewing on the sort of mobile device on which these images mostly originate, but so what? Where’s the rule that says that great photography, creativity and innovation only apply to those photographers who shoot on a Hasselblad and print on Fine Art paper?

Apart from the fact that it is fun. Social Meeja is taking a bit of stick these days, and I’d be the first to agree that Facebook book is probably best suited to those that can’t face a book, and Twitter is for the ‘Twitterati”. But if we discount the Selfie Lovers then Instagram is at least an online community of creative people who are more interested in sharing their work, and learning from that of others than with the number of likes or followers they have.

Having said that you can follow me on Instagram @meelius and like my Insta India series here 🙂


PS: “Photography helps people to see.” – Berenice Abbott

One Night in Bangkok

Insta Karma


Sunday afternoon. Besant Nagar beach or Bessy as it’s know colloquially.

31 degrees. Hazy and Hot.

I have just bought a T-Shirt for less than the price of a Latte in a London Starbucks.It’s a ‘Superman’ T-shirt.  Bought with irony in mind and 300 rupees from my wallet.

The exact cost of the T -shirt is 295 rupees. I still have the 5 rupees change clasped in my hand as I exit, and see Our Man.

Actually I had seen him on the way in, his hand outstretched toward me. But at that moment I was a (superman) on my way to rescue That T-shirt. So I did what I normally do in these circumstances. I ignored him.

Now I exit the shop in my new persona, and  I am feeling guilty. I have just bought a T Shirt at a price that can only mean its been stitched by 1000 Bangladeshi orphans  for a dollar and a stick of chewing gum. What to do?

Make amends obviously. Settle the balance with the Universe ASAP!

I thrust the 5 rupees into his still outstretched hand. And he looks at me. And mumbles something in Tamil which I don’t understand at all, but I don’t have to because his eyes say it all. THANKYOU!

I nod back and mumble make my exit, and hustle into the Puma sportswear shop (shorts to go with my T-shirt).Five shop assistants who were enjoying a languid Sunday afternoon doze just a few seconds ago jump to attention at a whistle from the security guard and start trailing me around the shop. Which is enough to drive me back out in under a minute.

And anyway I’m no longer interested in shorts. I can’t get this guys face out my head. I have to get his picture!

Fortunately he hasn’t wandered far. And I watch him for a few more minutes as he totters around the Sunday afternoon visitors to Besant Nagar beach imploring each of them to part with their Hard Earned. But people are not interested. Or at least they are more interested in enjoying the many and assorted foods ,sweets, trinkets, attractions and other assortments that Bessy has to offer to a punter on a Sunday afternoon..

And it Still HOT! But for once these bright southern Indian skies are not blue. The sun is up there alright, but its usual fierce gaze is dissolved and diffused behind the huge billowing clouds that have been growing ever higher all morning.

Bad news for a day at the beach. It looks and feels as though these same clouds are going to dump their contents downward any moment now. But the plus side of this is that the light is softened and subdued. Good for portraits.

I cross the street to our man. Phone camera at the ready (the best camera is the one you have with you) He turns and stretches his hand out again, and then recognition dawns and a slightly puzzled look crosses his face.

I say “Hello’ and ‘I gave already’ in a weak attempt at humour. But he clearly  doesn’t understand and replies in a stream of Tamil which I don’t.

‘Can I take your picture? ‘ I ask. Pointing to the phone and holding it up toward him. More torrents of Tamil..A nearby couple have been watching/ laughing at our exchange, step in and  intervene and translate, and apparently permission is granted. ‘He’s saying Ok you can take his photo!’

So. It’s the Decisive Moment. I step towards him, and bring the phone up to eye level. But the bright sky behind him means all I see on screen is a silhouette. ‘Hang on! Wait a sec..’ I say. More torrents of Tamil but the tone is bemused, as is the expression of the translator couple still watching and giggling off to one side. Who’s this idiot foreigner who can’t even use his camera phone? I finally find the exposure settings in the camera controls and notch it up a couple of pegs and Wwwwhoooaa! Suddenly That Face fills the screen, and I know before I have even clicked the shutter that I’ve struck gold.

I take 3 or 4 shots in quick succession, moving in a bit closer each time, and then I’m done. I give thanks and bow my appreciation to our man, and in return he smiles and makes a blessing like motion with his free hand.

And just for a moment. All is well again with The Universe. 

And I really am Superman!

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So its been awhile but Im back on the block or blog even.

London has been in the limelight a great deal recently. There was some sort of sporting event called The Olympics which everyone seemed to get very excited about, so much so even The Queen got involved and did a freefall from Space into the Stadium or was that another guy? Either way Im sure they used a goPro. They got even more excited when one of the athletes a sprinter I think (Bolt ? ) won a race, grabbed a camera and started taking pictures of the crowd! Actually his shots came out pretty well, & surprisingly there was no motion blur!

Still, away from the action, and out on the streets the kids have been quietly (and sometimes illicitly) getting on with doing what they do best; Grafiti.

Banksy has got a lot to answer for, and i don’t mean that in a negative way. When i were a lad grafiti was called vandalism, and rightly so. It was usually just a mindless, hastily spray canned signature, or sometimes if the proponent was feeling especially literate that day, a statement confirming the fact that the signaturee “was here”., or the “LFC” were “Forever”.

Exciting stuff. the closest it got to being artistic was if the proponent used different colours for the name and the statement parts. Occasionally the artist would really extend his talent and show his sense of humour by adding a ‘Kilroy’ face, (nose & eyes ) with hands appearing to grasp the top of the wall.

Then along came Banksy, and graffiti and the Art of The stencil was suddenly elevated to the level of Art and Politics in one. Just in case if youve never heard of him or dont know his work;-

Banksy is a pseudonymous England-based graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter. His satirical street art and subversive epigrams combine dark humour with graffiti done in a distinctive stencilling technique. Wikipedia

Google him, and take a look. Whether your impressed or not you may be more impressed when you learn that his work now sells in international Art Galleries for thousands even hundreds of thousands of pounds/dollars. Not bad for a bad boy from Bristol.

This shot isnt a Banksy. At least I dont think it is, its getting so much harder to tell these days as he has so many imitators. But I like it anyway. I was with my gun /military obsessed 6 year old son when I saw it. He didnt really appreciate the illustration and subtle commentary on child soldiers, pressing me (yet again) on when/if he could join the army.

I patiently explained (again) that in this country at least and for the time being (at least), he would have to wait, and quickly took the shot before we got arrested.

The Demon Barber of Al Quoz


Its been a while since I did any street photography, and I miss it.

In fact Im posting this to remind myself to do more.

This is one of many shots from a recent visit to Al Quoz I undertook as part of an MenaLab Art workshop with the Dubai arts organisation JamJar.

It was a Friday morning/afternoon -this  is the one day a week off for the indented labourers who live in the compounds here. We spent the morning wondering around interviewing and audio recording anyone willing to talk and tell us their story.

Mohmd pictured here works as one of a small team of barbers plying their trade in the shade of a large articulated lorry. A haircut with him will set you back 5 AED (approx $1) Needless to say he is kept pretty busy!

Click on any of the pics below to see more from this shoot.