Long Ago in Agra

Young Boys eating lunch by graves at the Fatehpur Sikri in Agra. Poor folk often don't have many choices
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Poor Folk of Agra

Local Musician

It’s been a long time since I traveled to Agra. Once upon a time, I visited the town every few months. I have never understood why the old Mughals chose the city as their capital for many years. It is a dirty, polluted town, and the only reason to visit is to go to the Taj Mahal and the other remarkable sights. This post, however, is not about the tourist sites. I am focussing on some of the poor folk I crossed during that trip.

I am not using the expression “humble folk” to describe some people I photographed on this trip. Humility is an attitude, and I have met some arrogant people who are wealthy or poor. Your income level is not always a determinant of your humility.

The Trip

Young boy with his newspapers. He ought to be in school.

I lived in Singapore, and we visited India for the winter holidays. I didn’t remember the exact date of the trip, so I checked the camera’s EXIF data. When I checked, I discovered we went to Agra on the 30th of December in 2007. My kids are pretty Indian now. Those days, you could refer to them as ‘coconuts’- brown on the outside and white on the inside.

Six of us bundled together in one car and drove to Agra. The highway between Delhi and Agra resembles an urban sprawl, and it is impossible to get a sense of the wide-open road. We stopped at a restaurant next to mustard fields. The laid-back and lazy invited us to extend our stay at the restaurant. After our chai break, we wandered around and met an old man dressed in his traditional finery. I doubt he considered us his best clients: he’d have preferred someone with paler skin who’d give him a more generous tip. But the old sinner and the young boy played some music for us.

Editing The Images

Young Boys. Lunch by the Grave. Fatehpur Sikri

I explored several approaches to editing this image and the other photos in this post. I prefer black and white conversion, but I felt the color versions were better. Many people opt for black and white, which seems to be a good approach, especially when editing images of poor folk. Yet, I am convinced that monochrome was robbing the photos of the character. When you examine them, you may notice the warm light of the afternoon sun falling on the people in the images. When I edited the photos in black & white, I realized that the people in the pictures seemed to disappear.

Monochrome did not work in this case. I was tempted to use a faded sepia approach but abandoned this direction. The faded sepia approach works sometimes, but most of the time, it just seems “cheesy.” That’s why I edited the images in color. I just hope the poor folk approve if they see the photographs.

I will leave you with a question: what thoughts flow through your mind when you edit an image?

A Few More Images


You can find my previous post on my fellow Indians here

I used my Nikon D70 while shooting these photographs.


Published by Rajiv

I have been around the block a bit. I've lived in four countries, and in many parts of my country. I have been fortunate enough to meet some really good people, and some really lousy ones, all of whom have taught me much. I am passionate about photography, writing, Indian history and continuing on this grand journey towards death.

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