Imitation & The Indian Man

Imitation & The Indian Man

English cleric Charles Caleb Colton once said that, “Imitation is the sincerest [form] of flattery.” I believe that to be true and much to my surprise and delight I have found that some of my own imagery has been imitated, in some surprising and creative ways.

Portrait shot in Rajasthan – The Indian Man…
Instagram post by @minikeast, tattoo by @felixthomastattoo.

I was perusing Instagram when this little beauty came to light. This tattoo is an exact replication of the portrait I shot of a gentleman from Rajasthan while in the region on a Ford Press Ad Campaign shoot back in the nineties. It was one of the more unusual jobs I get to work on but proved to be the trip of a lifetime, with images to match! Evidently, my portrait has struck a chord and is being duplicated in works of art, of all description, as somewhat of a cult icon. Have you seen this man?

Another IG Gem – @hannumuthu

The proliferation of such artwork from a single image made me question why such things gain cult status. So much so, that someone would opt for a permanent record on their bodies.
Wikipedia suggests that: “A cult following comprises a group of fans who are highly dedicated to a work of culture, often referred to as a cult classic. A film, book, musical artist, television series or video game, among other things, is said to have a cult following when it has a small but very passionate fan-base. A common component of cult followings is the emotional attachment the fans have to the object of the cult following, often identifying themselves and other fans as members of a community.”

Instagram post by Paola.Pelosi

Could it be that my Rajasthan man has struck an emotional chord with a small but passionate fan-base? That doesn’t surprise me as my sojourn to south Asia was an incredibly inspirational journey for me. The concept for the series of Galaxy shoots was dreamed up by the team at Young & Rubicam London (particularly Sam Hurford & Dave Henderson) for Ford and the tagline was ‘Travel First Class’.

Ford Galaxy ‘You Always get More in First Class’ ’90’s press ad

India and the Lake Palace provided a stunning backdrop to the first-class Ford Galaxy, and hid the harsh realities of third world life underneath. The dichotomy of shooting a Western people-carrier like the Galaxy in front of the breath-taking Palace, while in their everyday existence most Indians took their journeys on an overcrowded train – most often on the roof and were washing in the lake itself just out of shot wasn’t lost on me. However, in both instances – you can’t help but appreciate the stunning scenery.

Commuting Rajasthan Style

How ever you choose to travel around this exotic, mysterious continent, if you don’t find an emotional connection here, you have missed the point entirely. It is the people of this resilient, diverse, magical and mysterious land of extremes that I connected with, at every stage of my trip. Their colourful celebrations, the vibrant culture, their acceptance of everyday life with all its complexity and yet simplicity. Their seeming lack of connection to modern technology, in some areas, and the way they embraced every day with a smile, without needing fast cars or widescreen TVs to complete their life. Of course, the language was sometimes a barrier, so I decided to tell their story in the only way I know how, through my pictures.

On this soulful sojourn around the subcontinent, I met a man that seemed to be the embodiment of everything I connect with India. ‘The Sage of Jaipur’ was sitting on the side of the street swathed in cloth, simply smiling, content and humbly welcoming as I was walking back from the set of the Ford shoot. He had such expressive features I had to get a shot. However, once I’d returned back to the UK and processed the film containing his portrait, he quickly started to become much more than just the man on the street – in his way, like a tribute to the Mona Lisa. Is he smiling benignly? Or is he secretly sad? Is he lonely, uplifted, angry, amused, content or conflicted? He is a human canvas if you like, where you are invited to paint your story upon him. And alternatively, paint, draw, sculpt or tattoo him for (or on!) yourself.

AOP – Association of Photographers Awards finalist – personal image shot in Rajasthan

Images should be meaningful, evoke strong emotions, tell stories, allow you to express individuality and compel you to think differently. It’s this lofty goal I shoot for every time I load up my equipment, whether for business or pleasure. In other words, art ought to have a bigger impact than simply presenting fact, the images I capture are far bigger than myself and this has been brought home to me by seeing the creative adaptation of a piece that is outside my usual octane-fueled wheelhouse. A good new year’s resolution for me might be to make time to seek out more of these golden opportunities. – Nigel

Waitrose Press Ad – Indian elephant train through a taxi window shot in India

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