A few years ago I visited India on a whistle stop three week tour of the country. I barely rested on the surface, let alone scratched it.
I have a deep and abiding love for the country, of its history and its myths, legends and creeds. It is a fantastic place, well documented and commented upon in its various extremes, and its impact on visitors is equally well known. You either love it or hate it.
Around the same time I watched the excellent documentaries, Bombay Railway and Monsoon Railway. Beautifully shot, engaging and captivating yet treating its subject with a light touch, both these series examine the lives and existence of the Indian Railway. The railways in India employ in excess of 1.6 million people, making it the largest single employer in the world. It has nearly 40,000 miles of track and shifts an enormous amount of freight and number of people every day.
Statistics aside, it also has a wonderfully unique culture and continues to exert an incredible amount of influence on Indian society. It is an enabler and a way of life, bringing cheap, reliable transport to all levels of society, providing immense amounts of employment, both directly and indirectly. It is a fantastic opportunity to see and understand the meld of colonial impact and the Indian character.
I remember visiting Delhi Junction (station) and being in utter awe at it. I was bemused by the bureaucracy, fell in love with the bustle and buzz of the place. The first couple of times it was busy, and waiting for the trains was an experience in itself, with employees and customers alike taking time to chat and find out more about these strange people in their midst. It took me a week to understand the Indian Railway timetable, and to this day it remains one of my favourite 'books', such is the nostalgia and fondness attached to it.
The final visit was simply beyond my comprehension, a melee of bedlam and chaos, a brutal battle to stay focused and on course to your carriage in a vast conflicted herd of people, pressed so closely together in unintelligible streams of movement. It was heady and hectic and confusing and beyond comprehension.
The final trip itself was a memorable and intoxicating 52 hour journey from Delhi to Trivandrum in the far south (Kerala), full of quiet moments, interesting companions and unexpected incidents.
I have many photographs from India and one of my goals over the next six months is to convert them from slide and black and white film to digital.
However, it has been an ambition of mine, since I both saw the above documentaries and visited the various stations themselves, to spend time at a station like Delhi Junction, photographing life there, trying to capture the essence of these nodes of commercial/personal activity and cultural byplay. To spend time, to get to know the people, to photograph and capture and craft images of the inhabitants of an Indian train station. To understand and explore their lives and the unique culture and society that has grown up around the simple act of travel. and to capture it, document it, and show it.
As far as ambitions go, that will do nicely.