I was at Srinivasa Perumal Temple at 4am for the Thaipusam festival for the first time. I saw photos from last year and they were so full of emotions and impact but they could not be compared to the feeling of being there in person. It was gut wrenching and intense especially when the mouth piercings are being put through. I could feel that uneasy feeling in my stomach as I watch them receive the piercings. It was as if at that particular moment, I shared a tiny fraction of their pain. The dedication of the devotees were amazing and the things that they go through is probably something that I will never be able to do.
Besides observing the rituals, , it was interesting to observe the dynamics between photographers and the kavadi bearers. Many photographers were eager to get the best shot and to some photographers it meant getting as close as possible. I knew I stood out like a sore thumb inside the temple due to both my race and camera, yet at the same time I feel like I was invisible. The devotees went about their practices without giving much concern to any of the photographers that were there. It was as if I was a silent and invisible observer given an open invitation into a glimpse of their world. I’m thankful for that and I tried to be as non intrusive as possible. Using a 77mm lens I kept a good distance away from the Kavadi bearers and make sure I stood out of their way. Occasionally those who made eye contact with me and I took a photo of them afterwards, I silently nod my head in acknowledge and receiving a nod in return.
Lastly, I did realised it was not easy to shoot inside the temple as the low amount of light meant that my iso was at 3200 most of the time and I had to shoot at close to wide open resulting in a shallow depth of field. I also turned off my focus assist lamp so as not to cause a nuisance and auto focusing was not reliable under such conditions. I actually had a hard time deciding on which photo to feature over here as I feel I did not have any good shots. As a street photographer, one of the things I try to capture all the time is that fleeting moment where the subject gaze towards my camera lens, making eye contact for that split second. At the Thaipusam festival, I feel that I did not manage to capture such moments. I finally chose this photograph as I feel the light and shadow play gives it a good mood and contrast.