Faces at the Camel Fair, Pushkar, India
Man in a Colourful Rajasthani Turban
At the Camel Fair in Pushkar, the turbans are as colourful as the “characters” you meet!
That direct, forthright gaze!
Eyes red from the ubiquitous dust and the smoke from the dung-fires; skin weathered by time and the elements; teeth broken and stained by hard-living and tobacco – but still happy to stare at the foreigner’s camera with a complete lack of self-consciousness.
For me, one of the many joys of being in India is the ease of making “environmental portraits”: candid, street-style pictures of people (or animals) in their natural environment.
The annual Pushkar Camel Festival – or Kartik Mela – in Rajasthan, Northern India, ends with the full moon this Saturday, November 4th. A number of my friends – including photographer Karl Grobl and local guide DV Singh – are there, and I can’t help but feel a little envious as I watch all the pictures coming through my news feed, especially as it has been four years since I was there with them and enjoyed the Camel Fair myself.
But seeing their pictures reminds me that I still have countless photos I have yet to process. So, I was motivated to return to old files and revisit some of the wonderful faces from Pushkar’s dusty fair grounds. I have shared some pictures from the fair before (See: Scenes from a Fair and A Gypsy Portrait), but it has been a while!
Please enjoy these environmental, candid portraits of some of the fabulous faces at Pushkar’s Camel Fair.
Around the Fire
The people who bring their animals or other trade-goods to the Pushkar Fair grounds sleep on site: in tents or under their carts. When I arrived on my second morning there, it was cold, and still dark. Those people who were up were huddled around their camp fires.
Young Man at a Fire
There are only small twigs and branches in the surrounding desert – the resulting fires are thin, and don’t give off much warmth against the cold November morning.
The campsite comes to life slowly, as dawn starts to lighten the horizon.
Feeding the Horses
The Camel Fair is not just about camels: the prized and rare Marwari horses, with their strong bodies and inward-curving ears, are also a feature.
Man in a Blanket
Camels and Ferris Wheels
The camels, with their carefully shaved coats and painted markings, are everywhere.
Camel and Ferris Wheels
Their soft eyes and long lashes, and the flowers and pom-poms they wear, belie their notoriously bad tempers.
Man in a Green Turban
Man in an Orange Blanket
Cigarettes, pipes, and cheroots are everywhere.
Impromptu Family Group
If I see a camera, I duck for cover, so I’m always surprised by how enthusiastically I am met when I walk around with mine! A patriarch in this household (the man whose picture leads this post) insisted I stay at his campsite until he gathered up the whole family for a group shot. He then proceeded to give them stage directions from over my left shoulder, so that half the group is looking at him rather than me!
Man in a Cream Turban
Rajasthan is an arid, sandy place. November days are hot, but the nights are cold, necessitating the twig- and dung-fires that burn all around the campsite. It is not surprising that everyone has red and irritated eyes.
Woman in a Green Dupatta
These people spoke no English, so I’m not sure how many of the children in this group belonged to this woman. I can’t imagine how difficult her life in the desert must be.
Camel Herder Camp
Cover a camel cart in tarpaulin and throw a few woven mats on the ground, and Presto! you have a campsite.
Young Man and his Rajasthani Horse
My presence there prompted the youngest member of the group to leap up on his Marwari horse …
… to practice his Bollywood smoulder.
Marwari Horse – Equus Ferus Caballus
From the Marwar (or Jodhpur) region of India, these beautiful horses were originally bred by the Rathores, the rulers of Marwar until the 12th century. Today’s horses are descended from a careful cross between native Indian ponies and Arabians. During the feudal period, only the Rajput families and the Kshatriyas (the warrior caste) were allowed to ride them, as they were considered divine.
Smoke and dust hang in the winter morning air.
Camels at the Water Trough
One of my favourite spots was the water trough …
… where the beautifully decorated animals gave voice to their discontent.
Watering the Camels
The job of giving the huge animals their drinks can fall to the very young.
Man in a Blue Scarf
That direct gaze with strangers – so common in India – is something I see much less often in other parts of the world.
Man in a Blue Scarf
Once you have eye contact, it doesn’t take much to elicit a radiant smile.
Girl in Yellow
The rising sun finally cuts through the smoke and dust, …
Boy in a T Shirt
… casting a yellow glow over everything, and reflecting in the children’s eyes.
The central water supply is a busy place.
I just loved all the different shaving and painting designs the camels sported, …
… and their colourful pom poms!
Man in a Red Turban
But, it was the people, and that direct gaze, that I kept coming back to.
There really is nowhere quite like India!
Until next time,