This shot was a gift. The young man in the photo, taken just outside the entrance to the Galwar Bagh Monkey Temple in Jaipur, where I was also fortunate enough to shoot a lovely goat, was eager to have his photo taken. After initially taking a rather off-the-cuff portrait standing before the gate, he seemed keen to do a couple more; running over to the family car, opening the door and taking the baby from the man seated behind the wheel. Without saying another word, he adopted this pose and presented the baby to me. I don’t know exactly whose baby it was – the driver’s I suspect – though I got the impression this was not his own son. How lucky I was that his younger brother should duck in behind and add himself to the frame. It was one of those rare and beautiful moments when something unexpected offers me a chance to go straight for gold. The moment I pressed the button, I knew I had just been handed a classic portrait – the likes of which I’ve dreamed of having the balls to ask for more often.
Technically I’d say that the main subject is a little underlit, but the calm togetherness of his face, the alert, quizzical expression of the baby, and the yearning excitement of the younger brother through the window all add up to a touching family portrait. Great clothes, great haircuts, great poise. I only wish I could find the young man holding the baby and send him a copy. As it was, I was there with two other travellers and a local rickshaw driver we’d recruited as a guide and had to hurry off. All I could do was show them the pictures in the camera, which they seemed to really appreciate.
I have often wondered why it is that people want their photo taken. Is it simply a chance to see themselves in a shot, or a means of connecting with others? Perhaps a combination of the two. Sometimes I go further and imagine that they like the idea of being somehow immortalised somewhere. Maybe that’s just the historian in me, expecting that others also long for a place in history, however brief. If that’s the case then it’s my privilege to add this memory to the sea of vignettes, episodes and anecdotes past and present. All this took place in less than a minute and, moments later, we were climbing the hill to the monkey temple. Yet here he is, a young man proud of his family, asking me to remember him.