S. Heiner fine art photography
"Leaning toward the Sacred". 2007.
Inkjet print,approx. 10"x14".
My first trip to Varanasi India yielded two photographs that I've kept. One of those, "Subject as Object," was another photograph which later surprised me for all that had gone unnoticed when I took it. The girl’s head is bowed in anonymity; her leg, both in color and shape, mimics the leg of the stool; her hair, the ball of twine on the ground; and her clothes, the paper behind her. Impoverished, her being has receded into the world of objects around her.
For the following few years I often mused how if one week on the Ganges yielded two keepers, six weeks there might result in ten. So five years later I was back in India for a planned six-week stay in Varanasi. Eight hours a day for eight days I walked back and forth along the bank of the river with nothing to show for it other than the insight that yoga developed out of a desperate need to get away from a place you can’t stand and can’t physically leave. So, I boarded a train west (throwing up every hour on the hour after having eaten some bad potatoes) and headed for Bharatpur, a bird sanctuary often described as one of India’s seven wonders, visited by birdwatchers from all over the world. Only when I got there, I discovered that the region was experiencing the worst drought in thirty-four years. “No birds, you come back next year.” So, exhausted, I was back on the train heading west, finding no more photographic luck at each stop than I had in either Banaras or Bharatpur. At the end of the train line in Jaisalmer, I struck up a conversation with an English woman outside a touristy restaurant. “Worst trip ever,” I complained. “Three weeks of walking around India and I haven’t taken one shot I like.” As I elaborated on the failed expectations, I aimed the camera at the wall in front of us and took this photograph of a pigeon, the same one, I believe, that I’ve seen in my backyard here in North Carolina.