The Streets of Bodhgaya
Street Kids Keeping Warm Before Dawn, Bodhgaya, India
I’ve always had two careers. I began as a newspaper photographer in Oregon, and have continued to sell fine art images and engage in humanitarian projects throughout the U.S. and in Asia. I have also been a psychotherapist, professor of graduate psychology and an author of two published books. For my photography, I use the name, RH Alexander, to honor a family lineage and legacy of artists, some of whom gave their life for their work. I live in a small fishing village on the coast in Northern California.
You can learn more about my work at rhalexanderphotography.com
India is nothing if not a paradox. Bodhgaya, a UNESCO site renown because it is where the Buddha purportedly attained Enlightenment, is visited by tens of thousands each day. But there is crushing poverty. So widespread, the issues of class, geography, race so complex, the mind can become numb after days and weeks there. To counter this, when on assignment or with personal work, I photograph people just before daybreak and at dusk. Then, it seems a veil dissolves. Cultural differences dissolve. The heart, mine and theirs, is less protected. Each day I’d awake an hour or two before dawn to shoot. Most mornings, these boys would have collected scraps of cardboard, to make a fire, a modest respite from the bone chilling cold of a north Indian night.
My photographic work in the U.S., commercial and personal, has mostly been of wilderness. After decades of shooting, however, the line blurs (no pun intended) between landscape work and portraiture. Landscapes are the portraits of place - mountains, rivers, chasms; light and shadow the wrinkles, the age and laugh lines, the lesions of suffering of the earth as it’s features emerge and collapse, and struggle against the impact of we humans. In Asia, I mostly shoot portraiture. It’s obvious why. In each face the landscape of lineage, culture, class; joy, and often, incalculable suffering. This woman and I squatted together in silence for ten minutes or so, until my knees couldn’t any longer. She didn’t speak, but for her extraordinary eyes. I used a lens that required me to be very close - a foot or so away. It required of me both vulnerability and candor. This seemed the only honorable way to convey something of her life.