In February this year, we headed off for a week in Rajasthan, India. I have always wanted to visit India; my grandfather was originally from Lucknow so I feel a special connection to the country and its culture. But for the last few years our travel has focused on Mediterranean Greco-Romano destinations, because of our daughter’s obsession with all things classical. For the holiday week in February, however, she was on a poetry course, so we were free to go anywhere. I wanted to go somewhere warm. And then it hit me: India!
My husband visited India back in the 1990s. He shot an entire photo story on the death of the steam train, travelling all over the country and shooting black-and-white film with his Leica M6. That was his chosen way to photograph India, but mine was different. I wanted to shoot colour film with my trusty Contax 645. Accordingly, for my introduction to the country, my husband chose a route, taking in three cities in Rajasthan (Jaipur, Jaisalmer, Jodphur), each of which has a distinctive colour (pink, gold, blue) and animal (elephant, camel, horse).
We started amid the glorious pinks of Jaipur, with its ornate palaces and chaotic streets.
We rode an elephant up to the Amber Fort, just outside the city, and also visited a nearby step well. Obviously they didn’t get the memo about the colour pink: it was painted yellow.
That set us up for the next stop on our tour, the desert city of Jaisalmer. We saw the sun illuminate its golden sandstone at dawn, and rode on camels at sunset. We also visited the ornately carved merchants’ houses (Haveli) and the nearby Gadisar Lake, once the city’s only source of water.
Our final stop was Jodphur, a city clustered beneath the walls of a fort, where many of the houses (but fewer than in years gone by) are painted blue. Instead of horse-riding, we made an evening tour of the city by auto rickshaw.
India is an extraordinary place, and in a week we could barely scratch the surface. I want to go back, many times, to explore other parts of this vast and fascinating country. The colours, sights and smells are dazzling, and I haven’t even mentioned the food — or the traffic in the cities! In retrospect my chunky Contax 645 was probably not the right camera. There’s so much going on that I want to be able to snap more pictures more quickly, while still retaining the look and feel of film. So on our next trip I plan to take my 35mm camera: a Leica M6, just like my husband’s. But mine will have colour film in it!