I don’t need to remind you that we live in a funny country, full of people who exhibit behaviour that seems to defy basic logic – common sense, in other words – with stunning regularity. Consider our situation. We, a relatively modest motoring magazine, have a number of cars and motorcycles that come to us each month and what we do is drive them around, take them to a few nice looking places to shoot very early in the morning to make sure there aren’t 500 between the camera and the subject and finally, we bring you our impressions.
It’s complicated enough, given that locations aren’t exactly easy to find nowadays but then come along our brilliant and oh-so-vigilant police force and the various security guards everywhere. Sure, I’m happy that they are on the lookout for anything suspicious – though I don’t know where to place a man sitting with a black camera in the boot of a moving car on the suspicion meter – but instead of reasoning and understanding, what they really want to do is to poke their noses into everything that’s going on in this world, desperately try and enforce their authority, and extract some cash while they’re at it.
‘Sooting allowed nahi hai’ is the one single line I’ve heard so many times as a photographer that I am vaguely stuck between a state of extreme hopelessness and a mad fit of sheer anger every time I hear that one single irritating line.
Almost any security guard or attendant or security forces personal in India harbours a mortal, all-consuming fear of the camera. Any random Johnny guarding even something as lame and inconsequential as the back wall of a Croma store at 7 AM will throw a fit the moment you try and get a photo of a motorcycle with that in the background.
World over, you can shoot almost anywhere you want – sometimes including places of strategic, historical and political significance – and while we respect that some installations here need to have such a ban, what goes on in real life here is plainly ludicrous and archaic. Like most of our government laws, then. The laws with respect to photography are hidden away, out of sight from most people, and no one has a clear picture as to what the law really is, so the cops just come up with their own version. And you know where that goes.
Dear man-of-whatever-little-authority, we’re not Aaj-Tak, we won’t Photoshop your face and weave a twisted story involving prostitution, corruption and manslaughter around you (though you might just be involved in all of them), we don’t have 50 grand to drop on a location for just one shoot, we represent one of the best publication houses in the country, and we just need to take some pictures of a few vehicles for a few times a month working for a niche field called Motoring Journalism. I believe we, as a country, have real things to worry about.