Staged pictures have always seemed like an odd concept to me. The whole act of staging yourself and your companions to look happy and smiley in front of some landmark with some significance in order to look back on that specific moment years later and say, “Hey! Look how happy and smiley we were when we visited that place that one time!…What was it called again?” just seems like a construction of artificial emotion. As a budding filmmaker though, the fact that this crosses my mind and slightly bothers me is also an odd concept since everything I plan to ever create will most likely be an artificial construction and be staged in some sense. However, in real life, I just find it odd to shuffle into position, “cheese!”, *click*, resume, and repeat.
We visited the Gateway of India this past Sunday where I was confronted with more of these staged photos than I could have ever expected. As soon as I walked through the security gates, photographers approached me with laminated photos of unknown faces smiling and posing in front of the arch and offered to take my picture for a “good price.” I responded with something that has almost become habit, with a nahi (no) and a shake of the head and continued walking towards the group, who were now forming to take a group photo. As I was making my way towards familiar faces, a family approached me and who I assume to be the mom said, “photo, photo!”, held up a finger and pointed towards a man with a camera. At first, I thought that they wanted me to take a picture of them and was all “of course, yeah!” and started towards the man with the camera, but he made a face that made me realize that they actually wanted to take a picture with me. Which I really don’t understand why other than for the reason that I am a Whiter Shade of Pale and happen to be blonde. And, assuming they didn’t recognize me from any of my highly distributed and acclaimed video class projects, I don’t think there was any other reason than this. So, I took a picture with the family, said my thank yous and you’re welcomes and continued towards the SU group, but more people approached me asking for pictures “quickly” and “just one” and I soon found myself becoming “that girl who looked different who we saw that one time in front of that one place that time.”
It became sort of overwhelming when I would finish a picture with somebody and a new person would come up and go through the whole procedure again. Some people said hello and would shake my hand, but some people just stood next to me and expected a smile and pose. I learned some names and had a couple of conversations lasting a stunted twenty seconds each, but I doubt I would be able to recognize a majority of the people who I took pictures with that day if I saw them in a different context.
I’ve never been in a situation where people who I had no prior acquaintance with wanted to save a moment with me for posterity. And it was mad weird. Just like my maple syrup, I try to stay as real and organic as possible, but these pictures taken with people I didn’t get the chance to know and will probably never see just seem digital, pixelated, and artificial. But who knows, maybe one day our paths will cross again and I will meet my soulmate. Or maybe we already met. Woah.
photos by Iarn aka Iara Rogers Benchoam