This shot was taken by the river that flows through Hampi in northern Karnataka in India. There is no bridge across the river at this point and the stairs here lead down to the bank along which the tiny ferry – a small, uncovered boat with outboard motor – collects and unloads passengers. The stairs pictured here were also a popular place for resting in the shade.
These school-children may have been locals, or else they may have come to Hampi on an excursion to see the extensive archaeological ruins, which I have written about elsewhere. As is so often the case in India, they wanted their photo taken and called out to me to do so. Unlike so many other children who asked for their photo to be taken, the young chap in the middle didn’t smile, but rather offered a far more serious and quizzical expression.
Aside from the strong contrast of the sunlit boy against the dark shadows on the stairs, it is his expression and body language that I most like about this photo. Every time I look at his face, I detect an intelligent and discerning personality – he strikes me as a real thinker. There is almost a hint of disapprobation in his look – the frown, which forms a neat triangle at the top of his nose, seems to indicate some frustration or impatient curiosity – or perhaps he is just squinting into the sun. Though their faces can barely be seen in the shadow, the other children are also an interesting mix of expressions, with only the one in the middle smiling unreservedly. Something gave me the impression that the main subject was older than the others, or in some way more mature, and that his friends looked up to him. Of course, one can never be certain in these brief, stolen moments.