I looked down at her and smiled. I had gotten used to her throwing the gauntlet from time to time.
It was like this. I was a photographer on a freelance assignment. Not much money in this one, but seemed like a great opportunity to visit Imphal. The capital of the eastern state of Manipur, one of the seven sisters – the forgotten easternmost part of India.
The publication also informed me that the writer would also be there for the three- day shoot. I shrugged my shoulders. “Whatever.”
I thought in a way it would work out well. She’d create a story and I’d substantiate it with the photographs. Win-win. Right?
Having asked for an aisle seat I was unceremoniously dumped into one of the middle seats. With the overhead cabin space full my 6 foot frame was cramped in the centre with my heavy camera bag on my lap.
When she came across to the row where I was sitting, she gave me a somewhat amused look. I was not amused. That was probably the beginning of three days of irritation. But how was I to know.
My anger melted when she offered me her aisle seat. At some point, she suggested that I keep the camera bag under the seat back in front of her so as to allow me some leg space. I readily agreed.
She laughed. Apologized. “I didn’t mean it that way! I’m sure you’re great at what you do. It’s just that landscapes don’t move me too much.” She added hastily, “I mean, they seem so inanimate… as if… there’s just no one around, you know? Kind of lonely?”
We debated lightly on that. But she steadfastly maintained her ground. Landscapes were lonely. Landscapes were not alive. Landscapes didn’t move. And didn’t move her.
As she listened with interest, I warmed up further to the subject. “For instance, sunsets allow you a very, very small window of time. Miniscule. Lose it and you’ve lost your picture forever.” “And sunrises?”
“You know what Ansel Adams said?” “No”, I replied.
“You don't make a photograph just with a camera. You bring to the act of photography all the pictures you have seen, the books you have read, the music you have heard, the people you have loved.”
True, I thought.
The next day we were going for a recce.
"No”, I said, back to my irritable self, “And I don’t want to know”. We went back to the hotel in stony silence.