I took these photos whilst in a group of college students, around 20 to not be exact, ranging in age from 18 to 25 with an even larger range in background. The daughter of the man who helped start the Somali Democratic League. The aspiring graphic designer son of Korean immigrants. The spoiled Indian daughter turned classical opera singer. The Playboy photographer’s daughter, the Brazilian grocer’s daughter, the gay hipster that tried so desperately to erase his origin and that one, the girl, the guy, the South African — so many perspectives. And then me, the Jewish, middle-class ball of optimism hoping to break herself out of her collegiate indoctrination, in three weeks, in 5 cities, in India.

They all took turns. Taking the same pictures. This is me in front of the Gateway to India. This is me in front of the Ellora Caves. This is me on the bus, all day, until I get out, for a few minutes, to take a picture myself, to complain about the food, to complain about the flies, to get back on the bus, to get back to the expensive hotel, to go to sleep, to begin again.

And so they talked amongst themselves, looked out the window and India passed them by. These new colonialists, traveling to far away lands, not for spices or jewels, but for photographs — days spent earning their own visages in front of architecture without understanding. Not seeing people, seeing Steve McCurry and Said’s Orientalism, buying, stealing it to bring back to their friends, to impress them with their wealth of imperialistic pictures. I was there. I took this photograph. My face in front of the Taj Mahal.

These photographs were my attempt at silence. I couldn’t believe what I had joined — a band of cultural ignorants. I wanted to see India, be swept up in her smells and dreams — read the paper, hear the people and I tried. This was the best I could do. Shanti Shanti. India is not a photograph.

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