The Kumbh Mela, the largest religious gathering on earth, is taking place these days in Haridwar and everyone makes plans to go. I recently read a post about the fact that photography is now prohibited at the Kumbh grounds, which I feel is completely ridiculous. It seems the Indian government has gone a little too far with all this ‘terror’ security and is making everyone’s life more difficult while not really securing anyone. The same thing is happening in the UK now, and only last week a huge gathering of photographers at Trafalgar square was calling to protest English cops’ continuing harassment of photographers under Section 44 of the Terrorism Act.
So all this brings back memories of the Maha Kumbh Mela in Allahabad in 2001. I am not sure I will be going to the Kumbh in Haridwar this time, but in 2001 I came to India for this reason alone. I was a commercial photographer in Tel Aviv at the time, and the plan of moving to India was already shaping up. I had just bought a new camera; the Nikon F100 and new lenses, and was going to India to play with it a little.
Thinking back about this trip now feels like it was in another life time. The F100 is of course a film camera, and I carried a bag of 200 rolls of film with me, to be used in India over a period of one month. I had only used about 80 rolls but this was an expensive trip anyway. The amount of money it took to process these rolls could have gotten me a digital camera today!
I went into my archive and dug out a few of my images of the 2001 Kumbh Mela in Allahabad. It is very interesting to look at one’s work in the perspective of time, especialy knowing now, that I had no idea what I was doing at that time. Being a commercial photographer, I had no clue of how to tell a story and how to properly document the event. I was simply walking around looking for nice pictures and hoping I manage to get a few. I must admit that I was mostly disappointed with my results at that time. In that sense, it would actually not be a bad idea to go back to the Kumbh Mela today and see what I come up with.
Anyway, here are a few pics from my trusted F100 that served me so well until it was replaced by the D70 when I stared shooting digital. Good or bad, it was simply an unforgettable experience!