The Landmark

At the age of 18 I travelled to India and visited my exchange student in her colorful homeland. I saw colors and all of them, temples, gods, gold, silver. And I saw poverty in a dimension I had never witnessed before and until now. I started to use my camera as a diary to digest what I had seen. My host family took me to the most stunning spots I could imagine, jungles, holy places, tropical restaurants and the clear blue sea. They forbid me to give any money to the poor as it wouldn’t help. I tried to understand and went on with my photos. On the way to the airport my family explained me that they were very offended and sad because I took many pictures of poverty to bring them to Europe while they spent their holidays on showing me India’s shiny side and cultural heritage. They wouldn’t tell me earlier as I was their guest. This was the first time I experienced the unexpected power of pictures in cultural encounters, human encounters. During my flight back home I was the loneliest person on earth and I had become an adult. I had overstepped a border and couldn’t change back what I had done. Today the little girl eating a strawberry somewhere in the streets of a pulsing Indian city still is one of the most important and one of the most difficult photos in my archive. For me it is a landmark. On this journey I understood that my camera wasn’t just passively documenting, I began to see my camera as an interactive and communicative tool, never to be underestimated in it’s power and presence.

india, 2010 © franzi kreis