Tripin 2020 - page 43

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These occasions, coupled with
a fleeting glance or shy smile of
acknowledgement, can make one’s
day or perfect the scene in the most
innocent of ways.
The event of capturing one’s image
in a photograph is a relatively
modern phenomenon. The shock
of seeing a person ‘captured’ two
dimensionally has led some cultures
to resist being photographed
altogether, believing a photograph
somehow snatches the soul and
robs the essence of the person.
Maybe this notion influenced the
phrase of ‘having one’s picture
TAKEN’. I don’t totally dismiss the
idea, for if “the eye is the window
to the soul”, then at least a good
portrait reveals something of
the true inner person. Though
the notion may make some run
for cover, this is not so with Sri
Lankans; the camera seems to
draw a crowd of willing subjects,
all clamouring to bear their souls
to the image taker. Honestly, I have
never seen a more photogenic
people anywhere in all my travels.
The beauty for me as a photograper
is not just their willingness, but
how rarely the camera makes a Sri
Lankan self conscious or changes
dramatically the nature of the event.
People here, heartily and with no
pretention at all, simply love to offer
their images and graciously comply
to the request most of the time.
But, the challenge for me is always
the same, that of capturing the
moment, the mood, the expression,
the natural pose.
The best shots I have collected in
Sri Lanka since 1975 have happened
along the way. I rarely go out to
take photographs, but if I have my
camera along, I’m usually ready
to do my little dance in the light.
Most of the time, something novel
about a person first captures my
attention. Other times, it’s the
setting, or a particular light, or
the mood of the moment or a
combination of things. But, always
in good shooting as in life, timing is
the key — being in the right place
at the right time, sensitive to the
moment and having my dancing
shoes on! I try not to intrude
and make an effort to affect the
situation as little as possible while
prowling around for my angle.
Although there is something
timeless revealed in the eye of a
man, all the images in this book are
dated records of fleeting moments
in a single day in the life of these
people. Records indeed of a
wonderfully diverse and interesting
bunch. In this collection, for design
and artistic purpose, you will find
extravagant beauty juxtaposed with
abject poverty, pristine perfection
gracing the same spread as a
struggling survivor . . . but, that
is Sri Lanka, the country of spicy
extremes and contrasting overlaps.
As with all outward physical
manifestations, there is always
more than meets the eye —
subtilities within, spiritual realities
behind the scenes. Common
belief of the existence of such
forces and shared assumptions
of underlying influences give
rise to uncanny sensitivities,
superstitions and more than
occasional dark dealings among
the people. Perhaps these forces
are somewhat responsible for the
puzzling contradictions which
abound here: in this land of such
rich blessing there never seems to
be enough to go around; pockets
of selfishness and greed fester
in an island context of profuse
abundance; quick wit, intelligence,
literacy and sophistication flourish
in the midst of those who struggle
to settle differences over the
simplest of issues; cordial, gracious
and generous people, sometimes
swayed by blinding racism and
unyielding political prejudices;
lambs suffering under the control of
arrogant hirelings.
Life is incredibly tough for many
in Sri Lanka — a daily struggle
to survive, and for some, a hell
on earth — war-weary people,
abused by those they need to
trust, still hoping against all odds
for solutions in their lifetime, or
at least in their children’s. I have
chosen some pictures of survivors
who remarkably, in the midst of the
grind, have time for a smile, a laugh
or a festive observance.
It all adds up to a rare richness of
a magical land filled with people
who know the temporary nature of
life, the joy of the fleeting moment,
the eye contact that bares the soul
and touches the heart. My hope is
that People of Sri Lanka is a worthy
reflection of a wonderful country of
kind souls who generously opened
up to this ‘sudoo mineeha’ and
shared their images for this book.
Recommended Coffee Table Book:
People of Sri Lanka by Tom Tidball
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