Friday, November 4, 2011

"Just one picture!"

In Indian places that are not full of white people, but are still rich enough that people have cameras, people might ask to take a photo of you. This happened to me first in Amritsar, a couple times in Gangotri, and then a lot in Nainital.

First thought: Sure, whatever!

Second thought: Wait, this is weird. Imagine if I went up to a poor guy making shoes, thought "hey look, a real Indian", and asked for a picture.  That'd be sure to make him feel self-conscious at best, exploited at worst. (granted, there are people who make their living doing this. I don't know how they do it unexploitively. anyway, they're not me.) They're taking a picture of me not because of who I am, but because of what I represent.

Third thought: This is not the same at all as taking a photo of a poor shoemaker (or beggar, or whatever), because the power/class dynamic is in the other direction. The poor shoemaker photo is like if some rich high-roller with a Rolex and a Rolls Royce rolled up to your office while you're working and asked for a photo of you at your computer: weird. But when an Indian asks for your photo because you're white, it's like asking a celebrity for a photo. And it's always nice when celebrities take photos or sign autographs freely, so I should do the same. Further, I will also ask for photos with them; then I will get lots of interesting photos with real Indians.

Fourth thought: I actually don't care about having photos with people I've never met. Drop that last bit.

Fifth thought: Sometimes this is actually a nice interaction. I've had friendly young couples ask politely, I've had three giggling 12-year-olds completely stoked to have a picture with me, I've met cool dudes with good hats.

Finally, I've asked for a photo with an Indian only once, to get a photo with this guy.

(afterwards, of course they wanted these photos also. happy to oblige.)


  1. haha! that is so funny! "look a real american! get a pic!" i love the browns sweater on that guy, how crazy. i also love the "cool hats" :D

  2. You should tell them you are Brad Pitt. Love the guy with the Browns sweatshirt; he must really be poor ;-) Reminds me of when you saw the jersey for "he who shall not be spoken" in Marrakesh.

  3. You know, shoot, about a half hour later I saw a guy with an Ohio State cap, but I wasn't quick enough to grab him for another photo.

    Haha... they'd know I wasn't Brad Pitt, because they have our movies. (I've had a number of conversations where an Indian fellow keeps going through a list of American films, "have you seen this one? have you seen that one?" to which I sadly reply nope, nope, nope, nope.)

    Maybe I could tell them I'm a famous American cricketer.