Archived posting to the Leica Users Group, 2010/08/20

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Subject: [Leica] Seen God
From: jayanand at (Jayanand Govindaraj)
Date: Fri, 20 Aug 2010 22:18:45 +0530
References: <9F07836ED74F1C42AA69DFBAF8A1E2F1479F163379@MBX1.asc.local>

Thanks for commenting & I agree totally with the sentiments. I posted
this particular shot, out of the series I have of this encounter, is
because I thought I had actually captured a mixture of humility and
wonderment in the facial expression - both in the look in his eyes and
the curve of his mouth, as well as in the gesture of his right hand.
Maybe Mary Ellen Mark and Eugene Richards speak to you more clearly
because you understand the culture better - one of the reasons why I,
more often than not, describe the background to a photograph on this
list is that probably only a handful of members understand the
cultural significance at all.

On Fri, Aug 20, 2010 at 8:38 PM, Kyle Cassidy <kcassidy at> 
> One of the most important things that I learned from Mary Ellen Mark 
> trashing my portfolio, setting fire to it, and jumping up and down on the 
> ashes is that a photo needs to be able to exist on its own; that if it 
> needs to be propped up with words, it's success as an image is incomplete. 
> ?The most common example of this, I think, is when we see photos of 
> relatives "this is my son," or "this is my grandfather who is the best man 
> who ever lived" - the photographer adds in words what exists in their 
> heart but possibly not in the photograph. Cramming all the things that 
> exist in your heart into only the visual box of the photo is the 
> difficult, but paramount job of a photographer.
> How hard is it to get "this man saw god" into a photograph without words? 
> It can be done, and I think it just wants a little more time spent. What 
> I, as a viewer, need to see from this image is to see an interaction 
> between myself and this man, I want to realize through his expression, his 
> demeanor, and especially his eyes, that he has experience something 
> profound which has changed him. ?What I do see is a really wonderfully 
> exposed and processed photo of an old man who looks like he's talking to 
> someone else. All of the elements are here - the guy is great, the light 
> is right, the framing, the technical skill is there, but (imho) the moment 
> is missed.
> It might require spending more time there and it might also require 
> getting "up in someone's face" - seeing this photo made me grab Eugene 
> Richard's "Cocaine True, Cocaine Blue" off the shelf and look to see if he 
> always caught subjects looking at the camera - and he doesn't, but there 
> are two things I noticed about these most amazing of American documentary 
> photos, one is that regardless of whether the subject is looking at the 
> camera, or looking away, there is the look of a profound moment - as 
> though you can see into someone's head and know what they're thinking, 
> sometimes this is relayed directly to the viewer through eye contact, 
> sometimes it is relayed specifically because the subject is looking away. 
> The second thing I noticed is that he REALLY fills the frame. I think you 
> might want to have been a whole step closer here.
> Stay as long as it takes, get as close as you can, when you leave, your 
> world should move a little because you've met someone who saw god. I think 
> in documentary photography it's not good to be a voyeur, standing back in 
> the place where we all feel comfortable, you need to be inside the bubble 
> of intimacy.
> That's my two cents, take it for what it's worth. Hope this helps.
> kyle
> ________________________________________
> I had gone into the rainforests of the Western Ghats mountain range,
> at a place called Valparai in Tamil Nadu (the state which I belong to,
> and stay in), mainly to see the endemic flora and fauna (including
> leeches!) during the monsoons. At a beautiful view point - the day was
> very wet and overcast, so the landscape shots had to wait for another
> day - I met this man, Velu, who claimed to have seen Murugan, one of
> the Hindu pantheon of Gods at this spot in 1983. Since then, for the
> last 27 odd years, he has been coming to this spot at 11am to extol
> the glory of God. This has become a part of local folklore, so much so
> that the spot is nowadays officially called "Seen God". Here is Velu
> explaining to us the circumstances under which he saw Murugan. There
> are psychological connotations as well - "Vel" means spear in Tamil,
> and Murugan is always depicted with a spear in traditional religious
> iconography, and Velu is a popular name for the God. He seemed
> slightly unbalanced in a peaceful sort of way, but he spoke good
> English as well as Tamil, which probably shows an educated background.
> C & C always welcome!
> Cheers
> Jayanand
> _______________________________________________
> Leica Users Group.
> See for more information

Replies: Reply from mark at (Mark Rabiner) ([Leica] Seen God)
In reply to: Message from kcassidy at (Kyle Cassidy) ([Leica] Seen God)