Ted Kawalerski: India – Kolkata to Jamshedpur

 

Photography and Text by Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2022

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India: Kolkata to Jamshedpur

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When I woke up, I realized that I was not hallucinating and I did not have a psychedelic dream.  I spent the night in a flop house that made my living conditions at Ft Polk during my time in the army look like a high end hotel. The barracks were WWII vintage with holes in the exterior walls.

My assistant and I arrived in Kolkata, India in the middle of the night on a flight from Shanghai, China. By the time we collected all of our camera equipment and went through customs we were catatonic so when we saw a man holding a sign with my name on it I felt like we were in a game show and we won a prize. The three of us loaded up the van and took off. The driver, who spoke English relatively well, informed us that we were staying at a temporary residence during the first night and he would pick us up in the morning.

 That brings me back to the flop house. I have traveled for work my entire adult life and I have stayed in a wide variety of lodgings but this place was definitely the weirdest dump that I had ever stayed in. It was hard to figure out what this single room was about. There were some light mattresses on the floor, an open toilet, a few cooking utensils and a small stove. Above all, the place was filthy. If you needed a location to film a scene where human traffickers were hiding people this would be perfect. At this point we didn’t care – we slept.  At about 7:00 AM the driver arrived with a shit eating grin on his face.  We didn’t change our clothes or wash – we ran to the van.

I elaborated on our first night in India because it is part of a metaphor that follows. The driver delivered us to the Oberoi Grand. This place is one of the most spectacular hotels that I have ever stayed at.  So, in the course of twelve hours, we experienced the Yin and Yang – extreme opposites existing in the same place.  This is India.  When I looked down at the street from my room people were sleeping on the sidewalks. Yes, this situation exists in most cities but not on this scale.

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Indian man living on the streets as a shoe shine man
Shoe Shine Man. Jamshedpur, India. Photo: Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2022

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We were in China and India on a photography assignment for Praxair which is now Linde after merging with that company. They manufacture industrial gases that are used for a wide variety of global business applications and they wanted to visually establish their worldwide presence by featuring a facility in Jamshedpur. This is an industrial city that is a five hour drive northwest of Kolkata.  After spending our first day in Kolkata meeting some company officials who were headquartered there, we embarked on our adventure. I’m not being frivolous with that description.

I love to drive!  I usually do all of the driving on a trip, whether it’s for business or pleasure at home or abroad.  However, I’m not suicidal!  I think that India is the craziest place to drive. I routinely drive in NYC where some people soil themselves at the thought of having to do that. Operating a motor vehicle in New York is a simple task compared to driving in India.  So, we were very fortunate to have our expert horn blowing driver. You literally have to be an expert technical driver or you will die.  This is not hyperbole!  You also have to blow the horn non stop.

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Paved Road. A group of young man laughing. Jamshedpur, India driver delivering goods at sunset
Photo: Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2022

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After plenty of rest we were re-energized and constantly breaking the driver’s balls to make him laugh. I sat up front with a camera at the ready and he kept explaining where we were and what was going on. Upon leaving the city, we were on paved roads that were in relatively good condition. Within an hour, we were on a dirt road that was lined with pretty shitty looking trees. Soon thereafter, we started passing small villages with domestic animals running all over.  Some of the people were dressed in traditional Indian clothing and some were in western garb.  We would occasionally stop at a few of these villages to look around and make some pictures.  I never move in on people and start shooting.  It seemed that they really appreciated that because when I started talking they laughed even though they had no idea what I was saying.  I always get the best pictures this way.  

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A group of young man laughing. Jamshedpur, India
Laughter. Jamshedpur, India. Photo: Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2022

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Moving on, we were about to have two interactions.  We wound up on a paved section of the road again.  Traffic was minimal – mostly trucks.  In the distance, we could see smoke rising from the road. As we approached we saw why. A truck was flipped over on its side and several dead bodies were laying on the road. People were walking around the accident like they were viewing an obscene sculpture.  These trucks are super dangerous. The chassis and bodies are made of wood and they are not well balanced so accidents are common. Our driver told us that the truck drivers are always drinking and or using drugs. It was a sad moment.

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Truck accident with dead man on side of road. Paved Road. Jamshedpur, India
Accident. Photo: Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2022

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A couple of hours later, we could see traffic approaching.  Suddenly, two men on elephants were heading straight to our van. The lead guy gave us the international hand sign to stop.  It was obvious – this was a shakedown.  In my lifetime I have seen a lot of really crazy shit, but this scene climbed to the top.  Our driver did his best to look and sound really pissed off while he negotiated the quasi toll.  This went on for about twenty minutes and then Gunga Din had his elephant flip his trunk up and down a few times. It was over!  Those god damn elephants are huge!!!

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Elephant traveling on road India
Photo: Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2022

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Because of the number of stops that we made, it took us longer than five hours to reach Jamshedpur.  We arrived in late afternoon after a totally non-tourist trip. It was fantastic.

We checked in with the powers that be at the facility and laid out a plan for the next day. I had to cover as many features of the facility as possible.  There are no horror stories about our accommodations here.

I started shooting early in the morning after sunrise and I spent the early part of the day doing straight documentary photography. After lunch, we scouted for the main photo – the one that would be featured in the annual report. I decided on the location which featured the plant in the background with workers walking across the frame in the foreground. The window of opportunity was going to be short.  I wanted to make the picture right after sunset, with the exterior lights coming on and enough skylight to show some detail in the buildings. We used a small flash to light the workers in the foreground but as the ambient light was fading, the flash didn’t look right.  We resorted to a real exotic piece of equipment – a small Maglite flashlight. The day ended successfully with two excellent options. The people from the facility took us out for a fantastic dinner and we retired.

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Praxair Employees Leaving work. IndiaPhoto: Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2022
Praxair Employees. Photo: Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2022

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Our horn blowin’ driver picked us up in the morning and we started working our way back to Kolkata. Once again, we stopped at a few villages to feel the vibe of the lifestyles and make a few pictures.  We arrived back at the Oberoi Grand in the early afternoon and had time to relax before setting out in the evening to explore Kolkata.

My assistant and I decided to stay in the hotel neighborhood rather than running all over the city.  We had fabulous encounters with people of all ages who were as interested in engaging with us as we were with them. I really didn’t expect to shoot much that night but I ultimately made a lot of portraits. It was a great way to end this trip.

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Portrait of an Indian woman. Jamshedpur, India
Photo: Ted Kawalerski, Copyright 2022

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In spite of a few minor events, this was a momentous experience both professionally and personally. The assignment could not have worked out better and the people that we worked with and met along the way provided some real context to this complex culture.

We headed back to New York the next day.

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Portrait of photographer Ted Kawalerski Portrait of an Indian woman. Jamshedpur, India
Ted Kawalerski. Photo: Bain Coffman, Copyright 2022

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About The Author: 

Ted Kawalerski is a New York based photographer and filmmaker who has been shooting for more than 40 years for corporations, graphic design studios, and advertising agencies.

He has done assignments worldwide for AIG, Bank of America, Chevron, Dominican Resources Services, Ernst & Young, Harris Corporation, Johnson & Johnson, Liberty Mutual, MasterCard, Medica, Pitney Bowes, Praxair, United  Technologies Corporation and The Hartford.

Ted Lives on the Hudson River in Sleepy Hollow, NY and is involved in an ongoing project to photograph landscapes and portraits of its inhabitants along the entire length of the river.  This work has been exhibited in one man shows in New York City and MV Gallery and a The Beacon Institute in Beacon, NY.  Another project, “Windows”, has been exhibited in New York City and Connecticut.

With two partners, Matt Stanton and Gene Mayer, Ted launched Cork Factory Films, a full service film/video production company. For assignment queries contact Ted at 914-545-5600.

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To access additional articles by Ted Kawalerski, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/that-vitiligo-guy/

  

Bob Shell: He’s Different – Lock Him Up!

artist illustration of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. by Thomcat23
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Illustration by Thomcat23. Copyright 2022

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Text by Bob Shell, Copyright 2022

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He’s Different – Lock Him Up!

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Xenophobia — the fear of those unlike yourself is abroad in the land.
These are not good times to be a nonconformist. Let the masses find out that you’re not like them and they’ll make you suffer for it. Our formerly pluralistic society, our American culture of individual freedom is being engulfed by so-called ‘cancel culture,’ where independence of mind leads to cultural deportation. Our First Amendment freedom of speech, freedom of thought, is being destroyed by radical conformism. Speak certain ideas and you will suffer.

J.K. Rowling, creator of the marvelous Harry Potter stories, was attacked by the radical conformists for saying that sex is biologically determined, that it is a matter of genetics, not opinion.

Sorry, but she’s right. Two X chromosomes and you are biologically female, one X and one Y and you are biologically male. That’s a simple scientific fact — not a matter of opinion. I am a biologist by training, and this is basic biology 101.

Does that mean that I think anyone with two X chromosomes must wear dresses, put on makeup, and act ‘girlie?’ Of course not! The Book of the Law says, ‘Every man and every woman is a star.’. That means that every man and every woman, every single human creature, is absolutely unique. We each have our own orbit, our own place in this infinite multiverse we inhabit.

Every person should be able to express their individuality unhindered, and only restricted if their individuality infringes on someone else’s.
I should be able to live as I will, think as I will, create as I will, travel the world as I will, do anything I will — so long as I do not infringe on any other person’s right to do the same.

I’m biologically male, born with one X and one Y chromosomes. But if it was my will to live as a woman, no one has the right to interfere with that choice. Should I choose to live part of the time as man, part of the time as woman, that is my right. Should I choose to live as some sort of nonbinary amalgam of the two, so be it. My expression of sex is mine — no one else has the right to dictate that choice.And, aside from sex, I have the right to order all other aspects of my life as I will.

Should I choose to live alone eschewing all nonessential human contact, none has the right to tell me I must live otherwise. Should I choose to live with one other human, that is equally my right. Should I find a triad relationship more fitting, so be it.

Laws against polygamy and polyandry are abominations. People must be free to express their sexuality in the way that is ‘normal’ for them.
I believe government should have only two purposes: First, to leave me the hell alone, and, Second, to make sure everyone else leaves me alone.
Since the mid-1960s I have been a Thelemite, that word coming from Thelema, the Greek word for ‘will.’ For making the choice to live my life as I will I have been reviled, falsely accused, and thrown in prison, where I’ve been since 2007. Because I absolutely maintain my innocence, I’ve been repeatedly denied parole and pardon.

My real crime was not conforming to the small town, small minded, mores of an unenlightened community. I could have been out of prison ten years ago if I’d formally admitted to a crime I did not commit. I refused to ‘cop a plea,’ because I simply cannot admit doing something I never did. I was simply different, and that’s not tolerated. In my time in prison I have met a number of men like me, condemned to this awful place for nonconformity. Do you want to be part of a society that does that? I certainly do not.

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About The Author: Bob Shell is a professional photographer, author, former editor in chief of Shutterbug Magazine and veteran contributor to this blog. He is currently serving a 35 year sentence for involuntary manslaughter for the death of Marion Franklin, one of his former models.  He is serving the 13th year of his sentence at Pocahontas State Correctional Facility, Virginia. To read additional articles by Bob Shell, click here: https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/suicide/

Editor’s Note: If you like Bob Shell’s blog posts, you’re sure to like his new book, COSMIC DANCE by Bob Shell (ISBN: 9781799224747, $ 12.95 book, $ 5.99 eBook) available now on Amazon.com . The book, his 26th, is a collection of essays written over the last twelve years in prison, none published anywhere before. It is subtitled, “A biologist’s reflections on space, time, reality, evolution, and the nature of consciousness,” which describes it pretty well. You can read a sample section and reviews on Amazon.com. Here’s the link: 

A.H. Scott: Elusive

Man at night club with drink in hand touching a woman as if she is elusive
Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2022

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Elusive

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What is that word that I am trying to find?
What is that word that I’ve been looking for?
Where did it go?
Under the bed?
In the closet beneath some clothes?
Amongst the cluttered papers and journals scratched with ink
Was it yes?
Was it no?
Maybe it was a bit of both
Oh, I don’t know
It is four letters and so elusive to the touch
It can change a smile to a sorrowful gaze
Quartet of letters leaves you in a haze
The word wasn’t love
The word wasn’t hate
The word is when
When is the word
When is the thought
When is the future that can’t be bought
When was the word that came to me
How simple it is to feel the word upon your lips
When will the sun be in my eyes
When will I be the one to arise
Arise above the staleness I lived within
The word is when and now my life begins
Elusive it was, yet I grasp it close to my heart
In a life filled with starts and stops
When is the time that nothing holds you back
When is this moment in time that we find the sun so bright
When is this moment in time we dance towards midnight
Elusive embrace, for when is mine now
There’s not a moment to waste
I love you when…..
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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/circus-magamus/
A.H. Scott’s book: Bad Guys Finish Fast & Good Guys Finish Last is available on Amazon!

 

A.H. Scott: Sunrise

Sunrise photo of Philadelphia skyline
Photo: Hassan Smith, Copyright 2022

Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2022

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Sunrise

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I saw the sunrise in your eyes
As I pulled a crumpled, wintergreen sheet around my form the next morning
Your smile was all I needed to rejuvenate me that night before
Yet, what we shared was so much more
Last night was one of many wows
The moment you came to my apartment door
Red roses in a bouquet you handed me, as we kissed
I never knew such a moment of joy
You were the surprise that I never expected would come true
The dress of lime green fell from my skin because of you
White undergarments were unhooked and roll off my body
As you watched me, while sitting in a Chippendale chair
Suave and sexy was my man of European flair
He had brown eyes and salt and pepper hair
Sunrise smile that always made every moment I spent with him even brighter
He stood and approached my naked body by the bed
Those hands of yours were skillful and my lips upon him were bliss
Warm and moist I was to his touch
As I ran my fingers along his love-line, that smile broadened
When the bed became our playground
Each of us reverted to playing games
Hands and arms interlocked in a rumba of racy rendezvous
As both of our bodies heaved in anticipation
Then the moment of cresting came for us together
We fell asleep in each other’s arms
You left my flesh tingling from your charismatic charm
Make no doubt it
You have the brilliant disguise
Man of honey hue you are my sunrise
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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/circus-magamus/
A.H. Scott’s book: Bad Guys Finish Fast & Good Guys Finish Last is available on Amazon!

 

A.H. Scott: The Touch

An intimate close up photo of an interracial couple
Bill and Ayesha. Photo: Tony Ward, Copyright 2022

Poetry by A.H. Scott, Copyright 2022

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The Touch

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Touch of his hand against mine at sunset was divine
Not some overheated twisting of passion was needed by either of us
It was nice to know a man whose hands could be so light upon my skin
His fingers traced my cheek and then my lips, as I laughed in response
Touch me as we stand along the shore and I’m yours forevermore
Tenderness has a weight that a torrid tangle can never compete with
Sun’s going down against the horizon
I walk with you and you place your muscular arm around my shoulder
I touch you with a peck upon your cheek
And you laugh in response to me
That single touch from you was all that I hoped it would be
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About The Author: A.H. Scott is a poet based in New York City and frequent contributor to Tony Ward Studio. To read additional articles by Ms. Scott, go here:https://tonywardstudio.com/blog/circus-magamus/

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A.H. Scott’s book: Bad Guys Finish Fast & Good Guys Finish Last is available on Amazon!