This shot was one of many wonderful gifts given to me by Indian people during my first trip to India in 2010. Being generally pretty shy when it comes to strangers, I tend to photograph people furtively, from a distance, rather than shoving my camera in their face. This means that most of the time I get candid shots of people whose attention is elsewhere and not focussed on the camera. For the most part this is great, and I generally prefer candid shots of people doing whatever it is they are doing, yet sometimes the lack of eye-contact deprives the photo of the arresting intimacy that direct portraits can offer. Fortunately, in India, many people ask to have their photo taken, which makes it possible to get some lovely portraits, without any feelings of guilt or, at worst, exploitation.
These three young boys approached me in the Rajasthani town of Shekhawati, famous for its gorgeously decorated old Havelis – a type of private mansion common in parts of India and Pakistan. They were curious as to where I was from and, as with so many Indians, wanted to know what I thought of India. After a brief exchange, they all requested that I take their photo and quickly arranged themselves in front of the camera. I remember how excited I was at the time, because they were such great subjects with their immaculate, wonderfully styled clothes and their friendly, expressive faces. I wanted nothing more than to take their photo, and yet would likely have been too shy to ask myself.
While all three make engaging subjects, I especially like the fact that the young man to the right of the frame chose to look away at the crucial moment, thus adding an unexpected dynamism to this triple portrait. His cocked leg and crossed arms give him an air of confident nonchalance, which matches his carefree smile. I only wish I had time to ask who their tailor was, in which case I’d have had enough shirts and trousers made to last me a life time. What clothes!