Observations from a Small City on the Edge of a Crumbling Tectonic Economy..

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I’ve lived in Seattle since November 25th 2004, and in that time I have seen some slow changes, lost touch with a lot of people who moved on, disappeared left town etc. It’s really not until 2013 that the physical changes happened in the city that I could start to think I was living in a dynamic place.

I’ve lived in Seattle since November 25th 2004, and in that time I have seen some slow changes, lost touch with a lot of people who moved on, disappeared left town etc. It’s really not until 2013 that the physical changes happened in the city that I could start to think I was living in a dynamic place.

I came to the US with an expectations of grandeur.

I was really surprised when I got to New York, Boston, Chicago, Detroit and DC and was hit in the face with the fact that these were aging cities, and the sense that the people living there, really didn’t have much actual control or say over anything that went on, because democracy got in the way. Id assumed the US was bright shiny and new.
As a European, I had always grown up with places that were maintained and there was a real sense of local pride and everyone was involved in it.

Over the years and traveling around, I’ve seen enough of it to tell me that this country is definitely a continent in decline. A place strangled by conservative values, and disregard for everything except money.

The US is definitely not a place I want to grow old in, and yet, I don’t know where else there is now that hasn’t adopted the same capitalistic values, and with that the utterly destructive nature of that which is held in high regard: individualism.

 

 

the legacy

“…the act of thinking thoroughly through a scene and preempting a moment to capture it, comes with experience. The experience shows when is the right moment to take the shot. Because the shot is a legacy of that decision…”

Amazing Environmental Audio from Maha Kumbh Mela

I’ve been back from India just over a year now, back living in the US and in that time its been a real struggle, both on a personal level and financially.
Looking back on that time, a half-year spent in India, thinking about it and thinking about how much I miss it, and yearn for the Utopian chaos to run through my veins once more.
I have edited my photography over and over trying to extract the essence of the experience. However the personal journey that India was to me, has obscured my objectivity, something that only time can distill.
I have started once again on the editing process, going back over the audio recordings I made, and in doing so, had an epiphany about the work. I realize that I have no choice but to go back to India, and capture more audio, this time with an expanded kit. And to dedicate much more time and effort into making quality environmental recordings.
Audio recordings offer a taste of reality that video and photography simply cannot touch. Where video has to be constructed to make a compelling presentation, and photography provides specificity, and depth, that depth is within just that contextual intimacy.
Audio offers a living reality of time based exploration. Audio treats the consciousness to a wide layered mental vision, one that the mind is intrinsically connected to, there is no learning to listen, whereas there is learning to read photographs.

This Location Sound during the Anup Jalota concert at Pilot Baba’s Ashram camp 2013 Maha Kumbh Mela, Sangam Allahabad, Uttar Pradesh India. I had decided to walk around the sector 9 area where the ashram was located, about 7 miles from the actual main bathing area.
You can hear all of the local sounds, and the far distant sounds of the millions (130,000,000 to be more accurate) of pilgrims who existed at the ‘city’. Headphones highly recommended. Sit back and enjoy the Mela as I did for thirteen minutes.

2013 09 04 In the Back where the light of the fading day reflects off the wall.

Its a phenomena to hear the daily rumination’s of your neighbor showering, slurping milk in his cereal bowl, listening to the radio, masturbating, showering and general other private life sounds, and yet never actually really seeing them because of a wooden fence that separates you from him. Im pretty sure he cant hear me because the sound from his side is funneled in through a small space filtered by a Mosquito grille and a cat.

I have a lot of uncertainty now, and yet I know somewhere in there I will miss these days. Perhaps this is a time of resettlement and reassurance from a relationship that I now find myself in.
I also find myself in the eye of the storm. Im doing things now that are prime and ahead of the curve. Yet Im filled with doubt and procrastination is the crutch Im leaning on. Im trying to do a lot maybe too much, but if I dont Ill feel as though Im not doing enough, like I feel that anyway regardless of the capacity Im at.

Who knows. Just remember the important things.

2013.05.30 BOMBAY

Bombay, not Mumbai. I prefer it, and the Bombers themselves call it Bombay anyway.

Its as hot as Goa was, but the humidity levels are off the charts. What I thought was humid in Goa was just for starters. Here its totally and completely insane. It takes 20 minutes to sweat out a liter of water. I go nowhere without a 2L bottle of Bisleri. Bisleri is the nice brand of water in India. Its an Indian company started by a French couple who came here some time ago and scoffed at the lack of good clean drinking water in bottles. Since then of course, there are others. Bailey, which is harder to find, but equally as good and the same price. 1L bottles are about 15 rupees, 2L bottles are 25 rupees, depending of course if you ask the price, because most street vendors will try and hoodwink you and make you pay more even thought he price is moderately unclearly marked on the bottles themselves. The Batch Number, date and Price “(inclusive of all taxes)”. But I still like to ask because I like to see the honesty levels of the vendors. Most outside of Goa and so far Bombay, are not honest and some, even when you show them the price will argue the price with you. Old school values; haggle. Theres no haggling in America. We are soft now, lazy, the price is the price. I still like to ask for a deal when I have to go to the Apple store just to fuck with the doe-eyed whizz-kid clerks. Who cares if Steve Jobs had $750,000,000,000 in the bank before he stepped out, he shouldn’t have had that much money anyway, he should have by virtue of the fact that he travelled India himself, known that that money would have been better off in the hands of those who know what to do with it to make their days a little brighter. Like those tribal families out there on the street in front of the hostel Im currently in. They are rolling with the rats, and their children are playing cricket and badminton amongst the traffic “OUT”! I saw that, that was out! Ballard market, haha what a fucking Joke, ‘fixed prices’ total and complete bullshit.
Oh look at that Im sweating as I’m shitting here in relative comfort of porcelain three floors above you, and the little brown children with blue string around their waists are dropping their payloads into cracks in the pavement. Their shit is cleaner then yours though -and you fucking better believe it.

 

Goa to Mumbai

Bombay! Yes they are Dildos!
Bombay! Yes they are Dildos!
Bombay! Street children, have the world as their playground.
Bombay! Street children, have the world as their playground.
Bomba, there is always someone at work, and neary by street children play in the dust between the missing paving stones.
Bomba, there is always someone at work, and neary by street children play in the dust between the missing paving stones.
A workman walks past bails of fabric on a hand-cart in his ubiquitous Ghandi style garb and Nehru cap.
A workman walks past bails of fabric on a hand-cart in his ubiquitous Ghandi style garb and Nehru cap.
The single best thirst quencher is Cane Juice, there are literally thousands of stalls all over the metropolis selling Cane Juice which is prepared and crushed and mixed with lime or mint and sold for 10rs a glass. Its a sweet, cool light-green drink with a hint of cinnamon and a frothy head.
The single best thirst quencher is Cane Juice, there are literally thousands of stalls all over the metropolis selling Cane Juice which is prepared and crushed and mixed with lime or mint and sold for 10rs a glass. Its a sweet, cool light-green drink with a hint of cinnamon and a frothy head.
A flour Mill in Fort, Bombay India. Someones respected father represented ont he wall, and the eye-of-shiva marked on the portrait gives the scene an uncanny and humorous appeal. It reminds me of Carlos the Jackal.
A flour Mill in Fort, Bombay India. Someones respected father represented ont he wall, and the eye-of-shiva marked on the portrait gives the scene an uncanny and humorous appeal. It reminds me of Carlos the Jackal.
Bombay! The old part of the city, at its southern tip is an area called Fort, this is a mix of british and dutch colonial achitecture, as it was a dutch trading port before the British arrived. Parts of the city are wide tree-lined streets with beautiful Indian buildings, others wonderful British buildings which are still used today for state buildings and civil activities like the India Post building and CST which was formerly known as Victoria station, that building is a vast cavernous hulk with flying buttresses and warren-like interior housing hundreds of offices. In between the cracks lie the back-streets which are mind-blowing networks in impossibly small areas that accommodate millions of working indians who eek out their existences in stunning displays of resilience.
Bombay! The old part of the city, at its southern tip is an area called Fort, this is a mix of british and dutch colonial achitecture, as it was a dutch trading port before the British arrived.
Parts of the city are wide tree-lined streets with beautiful Indian buildings, others wonderful British buildings which are still used today for state buildings and civil activities like the India Post building and CST which was formerly known as Victoria station, that building is a vast cavernous hulk with flying buttresses and warren-like interior housing hundreds of offices.
In between the cracks lie the back-streets which are mind-blowing networks in impossibly small areas that accommodate millions of working indians who eek out their existences in stunning displays of resilience.
Bombay! These are typical workers on their way to or from work, their style is accommodating to extreme temperatures of 50+ centigrade, the garments are cheap but well tailored white cotton in the style of Jawahlal Nehru who was the first prime minister of India, a solid intelligent man who founded many of the principles of what are now considered the pillars of Indian modernity.
Bombay! These are typical workers on their way to or from work, their style is accommodating to extreme temperatures of 50+ centigrade, the garments are cheap but well tailored white cotton in the style of Jawahlal Nehru who was the first prime minister of India, a solid intelligent man who founded many of the principles of what are now considered the pillars of Indian modernity.
The slums of Mumbai, a truly heart warming experience which in many ways reminds me of the way life used to be when I was a child growing up in Ireland. Its an amazing experience to see how these people live, where everything is recycled, water is abundant and used for everything, children play, are happy, adults come and go out of the city to work and some work in the slums, but everyone is truly happy. There are no traffic jams, there is no ill-will, and there is mutually expressed respect amongst all.
The slums of Mumbai, a truly heart warming experience which in many ways reminds me of the way life used to be when I was a child growing up in Ireland. Its an amazing experience to see how these people live, where everything is recycled, water is abundant and used for everything, children play, are happy, adults come and go out of the city to work and some work in the slums, but everyone is truly happy. There are no traffic jams, there is no ill-will, and there is mutually expressed respect amongst all.
Amol, from Video Volunteers and India Unheard, shows us around the slums where he lives. Its an amazing experience to see how these people live, where everything is recycled, water is abundant and used for everything, children play, are happy, adults come and go out of the city to work and some work in the slums, but everyone is truly happy. There are no traffic jams, there is no ill-will, and there is mutually expressed respect amongst all.
Amol, from Video Volunteers and India Unheard, shows us around the slums where he lives. Its an amazing experience to see how these people live, where everything is recycled, water is abundant and used for everything, children play, are happy, adults come and go out of the city to work and some work in the slums, but everyone is truly happy. There are no traffic jams, there is no ill-will, and there is mutually expressed respect amongst all.
Bombay, aka Mumbai, its so hot, that there are no door on the trains, people hang out and off the trains as they bolt around the local intercity area. Rarely do accidents happen.
Bombay, aka Mumbai, its so hot, that there are no door on the trains, people hang out and off the trains as they bolt around the local intercity area. Rarely do accidents happen.

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The monsoon is late and everything is dry, hard and thirsty. The locals are preparing hard for the oncoming torrential onslaught which is to last about twelve weeks.
The monsoon is late and everything is dry, hard and thirsty. The locals are preparing hard for the oncoming torrential onslaught which is to last about twelve weeks.
We came to get our milk back please, monsoon is late and the kids are getting hungry.
We came to get our milk back please, monsoon is late and the kids are getting hungry.

2013.05.09 7

I am in room Nothing. Im going to call it Seven. Its the joker in the pack of rooms Ive stayed in, in India so far. Bhopal, Goa, Kumbh, Varanasi, Pushkar, Bhopal, Goa. Seven Rooms, three of them were number 7, the rest didnt have any numbers, like this one, my brightly Orange Hindu bedroom #7.

Every room, starrts out as a functional respite from the rigours of travel, traversing ground over time to exist in another space for an alloted time. Every room, after a while becomes stagnant, and somewhat intolerable, a reminder of impersonal functionality it serves, imposing cost, and inevitable build up to departure to the next place. The space becomes familiar and a nest as best possible within the constraints. The room exists for a period and it is your prerogative to either ignore it and spend as much time out of it as possible, or to concede to it. There is no way of personalizing the space, as the knowledge exists that you will be leaving that room in a foreseeable period, and with that it becomes a crater for the veritable bag explosion when you are finally done with negotiations and finances. Just as quickly it becomes the events of the period which in some case are best left in the room when the door is closed and the bill is paid.

 

Its impossible to be tidy, your bag is designed to take as much as you brought and its designed to take that load utilizing every possible area of volume the space will take. So the contents spring out and are organized into whats needed, what is to be washed and what isn’t needed, which means piles.

If theres a desk it becomes my office, cables wires chargers batteries keys tools trinkets and gadgets adorn the surface. The equipment stays in the case because its safe from humidity, dust, heat and insects.

The bed becomes the other desk, designed perfectly to house everything at arms reach when you are laying under the 720rpm ceiling fan buffeting you with slightly cooler air, too drenched in your own sweat to contemplate anything other then momentary thoughts and vignettes of the days events before drifting in and out of sleep for the next five hours while fighting with mosquitos.

Small Room

I remembered there was a small guesthouse on the corner of the Chaudi-Arpora road, a place called Gods Grace. It exists on a blind elbow smothered in undergrowth at which there is a low concrete single track railway bridge, trains pass by at 60 minute intervals at night and 30 minute intervals during the day, an even split of passenger and transport trains, mostly ore and trucks in which the drivers sit in their cabs baking in the heat and smoking cigarettes with their feet out of the windows.

I am in Chapora, which is the most southern ‘county’ of Goa before Karnataka state. This road cambers gently and is well cared for with good reflective paint on the edge, at night there is zero illumination, which, if you happen you stray, you’ll end up in mangrove swamps on both sides. It ends at a dimly lit avenue going right into the Talpona River, at which there is a bus stop eluding to a once existing bridge which is now no longer there. For the unwitting, one could accidentally end up in that river with zealous use of the accelerator.

There is a distinct Hitchcockian feel to Gods Grace. It is nestled in amongst a cup of foliage the building itself a pale blue and white stark building with little or no style in of itself a concrete courtyard slopes steeply down to the bend in the road, its dry and dusty despite being in a mangrove swamp. On the back side there is a cliff and on the other side it trails off back into the mangroves.
The electro diesel locomotives, you can hear from 20 km out, it huffs, snarls, creaks and pants its way along the track in sonically crystal clear southern sky. Punching the heavy humid air with clean crisp riots of horn, against a pitch black indigo night the air heavy like premium felt. The shape of sound as its shot directly forward from the front of the hulking Cyclops steel behemoth a single eye pitched in golden warning, lights up my room as it winds it way along a shallow trajectory to the straight path of the bridge and into the cushioning undergrowth, the rip-roaring earthquake grows louder and louder heavier and heavier like a concussion, a deep low hum oscillates two per second embellished with silver brightness of bogies on track the train says this’n’that and this’n’that…this’n’that and this’n’that. Pockets of clarity open as the undergrowth subsides shifting and baffling metallic industrial with heavy chugs in a low rumble. Then suddenly the world is ripped and a the fabric of existence is torn open and with a burst of trapped air everything is consumed in a massive all encompassing sound that covers you like paint and takes precedence over everything else, no birds sing no voices heard only complex rhythm and malevolent mechanics in time, space and relativity, screaming forward fulfilling its existence. And with a fold of the envelope, the sound is all at once gone back to idyllic sweetness of quiet nature in a remote spot of land on the coast of the Arabian sea.

FROM PUSHKAR TO BHOPAL

The heat becomes you. Heat dictates everything. Your life revolves around it. In extreme temperatures, anything above 38c, the body reacts differently, even for those who are used to heat. It takes over your actions, what you do, how you do it, when you do things where you do things, what you eat, what you drink, and how much of both. Heat mandates that you segregate everything and do those tasks in small amounts. Currently its averaging between 38c and 44c surprisingly enough I have been fine in the extremes. I have to wear socks in my shoes because my shoes become too hot for my skin, and in places where you are not allowed to wear shoes it is essential that you have socks on because the temperature of the ground is enough to dry spit in 20 seconds. It will make an ice cold 1L bottle of water hot –30c– in 20 minutes. Inside a car that is reduced to about 10 minutes. Its easy to print figures and say oh look its 44c outside, but its a different thing entirely to know how those figures actually behave in terms of what those figures mean

 

The decision to leave Pushkar was made for me by the enticing idea of working again on a project Im not allowed to discuss. Needless to say its a sensitive topic in India and lives are at stake, as well as our own freedom if it were discovered what we were trying to achieve in terms of truth telling through documentary.

This is probably the biggest current affair topic Ive worked on in the last decade, and it feels good to be back in the loop -hows that for ego?

 

Pushkar was ultimately a fulcrum point for me in terms of learning how to deal with a few things by my self. I spent 11 days there two of them were completely buried in unemployment bullshit from the US, Im still fighting that decision now after a year because it wont leave me alone. Im so over it that Im over being over it. Do much so that when it came to paying the bill in the SunSet hotel I thought Id only been there five days instead of seven.
I also went through a period of self reflection and spent a few days meditating on matters. Something brought me clarity. After that I started meeting interesting people. There is nothing like silence for three days to really make you think. My sweet friend Isil from Istanbul who I met in Varanasi went on a retreat for that very same purpose but did it for ten days, and what she said she got from it was life changing. Im changing my opinions on meditation. Meditation is different from alone time. Alone time to me is something that I have to have, its time to do my shit anything I want for a period of time every day. I need it or I go nutso, but i know that a small doses are better then big doses, makes you appreciate that time more.

Pushkar was also a challenge for me in that I had to stand up for the things I believe in and accept that those beliefs clashed with the beliefs of others, and with that discourse has to be opened to find common ground. I spent a day with a fantastically independent free thinking woman named Daisy who rambled with me for many hours on many topics and in that period opened my eyes to things I hadn’t even begun to think about. Her ideas rattled me and made me think hard about derivatives of those sentiments.

Pushkar is tiny, and you could see everything in a day and a half, but its so relaxing that I had to stay, sit and soak in the heat the light and the silence of the mid afternoon sun. I never did trek up any of those hills like I wanted to, but Im not really that bothered. The place gave me something else instead and I’m more then happy with that.

 

It was surprizingly easy to get a ticket out in the end. I had been trying to get a ticket for a few days and I kept going to these rat-hole travel “agents” that tell you that they cant get you anything for whatever reason. Finally I went to the highstreet guy and he instantly got me an express train directly from Ajmere to Bhopal, 5pm departure 6am arrival. Bingo. I got on the train, bedded in, played videogames for a few minutes fell asleep and woke up in Bhopal. How perfect is that?

 

Arriving back in Bhopal again, was a little strange but it gave me confidence, because the city the first time was a bit intimidating for me arriving in India, and this time around it was familiar and the people here are definitely more relaxed, have a great sense of humour and dont try and rip the tourists off because nobody comes to bhopal for tourism, so Im Mr Exotic Noveltypants again. Its dominated by Indian Muslims, and after being in Hindu dominated places for two months, I can honestly say that Islamics are definitely more grounded and have less conflict within the religion then Hindu seems to. Also the food is better.

 

ME MATE STeve said i would just for the crack.

an indian menue in restaraunts are notorious for the most imagintive phonetic spelling of english words. Ive seen Shup on the menu, and when I asked the witer, he said ‘Soup” through a bushy mustache and mouth full of mangled red teeth, and with an indian broken english. Magic.
The best one Ive never sen was told to me by a neighbour in pushkar, guy names Lance who was a 63yo guy who looked 52, his buddy steve and their wives. they were totally great, I loved the reconnect to old times through these guys.
Lance told me that in one restairant he was here the spelling for ice Cream was all perfect except the last one which was two seperate words “Black Krunt”.

I think that takes the cherry.

Observations from Varanasi pt.1

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Cows and Sponges
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Bathing in sacred Ganga.
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Varanasi is as much about the rooftops as the Tola’s (streets).
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As children we learn to share..
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Monkey King on the rooftops Varanasi (at night, during a black-out).
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A Sadhu came and joined us on he Ghats for a smoke of Chilum. Chilum has made me sick in the three times Ive tried it. I hate the taste and the effects are crap.
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Lava.
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A Swede and a Norwegian two very nice travellers I met on my first week in Varanasi, took a bathe in the Ganga, not me however. I just take the pictures.
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First light on the Ghats.
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Theres a street photography gem around every nook here..