As a travel photographer there is always the paradox of whether to take the shot or to put the camera down. This is one of those paradoxes I faced during a morning stroll along the banks of the River Ganges in Varanasi, India. This one particular image I hold deep in my heart, for better or for worse, it’s a moment simply cannot forget. It’s also one of the photographs out of thousands that enlightened me with a greater understanding into Hindu religion and opened my eyes reinforcing how valuable life is.
Whenever I’m travelling in unfamiliar territory, my main objective is to capture the beauty of the culture, people and the location, and India is no exception! It’s an incredible country, rich in culture, colour and life with some of the nicest people I’ve met. I do enjoy portraying the positivity of a country, it’s very rewarding, however, moments arise, unexpected and completely shocking. Here’s the story behind my image ‘A Mothers Anguish’.
A Mothers Anguish
Varanasi is an incredible place, a real eye opener and a step back in time. You witness events you may have never imagined, or have ever wanted to see. It’s completely unavoidable and totally unpredictable. It’s the kind of place that you shouldn’t expect anything, but embrace every moment.
I was walking along the Ghat’s in the morning, as I did most days, when I came across this staggering scene. A distressed Indian woman standing on the steps by the River Ganges, confounded by the body of a deceased infant floating on the water. I instantly froze, my skin turned cold as I tried to get a closer look. I wasn’t sure whether it was a human or an animal. You often see dead cows, dogs and other animals floating down the river. As I observed I recognised the hands and feet of a child. It didn’t feel appropriate taking a picture, but I knew if I didn’t than I would have regretted not documenting the sight.
I remember slowly inching my way closer down the steps towards the woman, removing my camera strap from around my neck and holding the camera at my waist with my finger on the trigger. I did this because I wasn’t sure how people would perceive or react if they noticed me with my eye to the viewfinder. As I approached I clicked this image before stopping a few metres behind where the woman stood. She was quietly speaking in some kind of tongue. That is when I decided I shouldn’t impose, which is when I walked away. I do however regret not staying as I would have liked to speak with her and find out the story.
An Indian friend who was with me at the time was shocked as well, but he explained it’s often a common sight to find deceased children in the Ganges, because the children are not cremated like the adults – instead they are sent off into the river to drift downstream. This is incredible India, where two worlds live parallel to one another.