To Watch and Be Watched
On an assignment in South Asia almost two decades ago, I ‘accidentally’ made some ‘sensitive’ pictures at a political rally, and incurred the wrath of the local authorities.
The events that followed resembled that of a bad Hollywood movie and the series of ‘coincidences’ that took place subsequently left me feeling even more paranoid.
I swear that while walking in the busy streets a few days after that eventful night, I was tailed and photographed by a man with a camera hidden in a book, the way it would be done in a spy movie.
I was spooked.
Over the years, I have come to realize that someone as sociable as me can also feel lonely.
I became envious of people who are able to function in solitude, and developed an admiration for those who don’t seem to mind being alone in public.
Subconsciously, my curiosity about the loners turned more and more into fantasy.
I convinced myself that those who seemed happy were actually not, and vice versa.
I developed a strange hobby of watching strangers and creating their stories out of my own imagination.
Sure, I was judgmental and often biased.
Inaccurate? I don’t really know.
But then again, is it important to always know the truth?
This body of work doesn’t work if it doesn’t ‘scare’ a little. Every picture that makes the cut must have ‘the feel’ that I was standing close enough to the people to smell their breath.
If there isn’t a sense of being spied on, it doesn’t work.
And for that to happen, I often pushed myself until I was almost ‘caught’.
After viewing images from this series, a friend wrote: “It is scary to hang one of your prints at home because most of your images are of people’s backs, and you get this feeling that at night, some of the people might turn around.”
Now, are you spooked?
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