Daniel Zvereff, whose work you can see over at his web site has a photoessay up called Rajput Ride, which caught my eye.
Most of what Zvereff does is pretty pedestrian. He's got an appealingly gritty aesthetic (push a big toe into the tone curve to give a lot of rich dark tones, lots of midtone contrast, maybe push the saturation up a fair bit, and whale on the clarity slider) that he uses to show us appealingly gritty subjects. Ho hum, we've seen a lot of this stuff.
Rajput Ride jumps off the page. Zvereff is clearly in India for Holi. The signs are there, although he does dodge the nearly-inevitable standard Holi photos. And there are these skateboarders running around! It's crazy! If you're inattentive, as I was the first few times through, one can take this as an essay on a recently arisen skate culture in India, how great is that! Except, sadly, it's not. It looks like that, but it's not. More about that anon.
The pictures look like pictures of India, a slightly crowded, cramped, version of McCurry's India. Decrepit, ancient, colorful. Both the people and the buildings. Having seen other pictures of India, I can deduce that much of India does not in fact look like this, but evidently it's not very hard to find this material since everyone does. Without the skateboards this is just yet another cheap McCurry knockoff, but with the skateboards it's pretty awesome looking.
One imagines Zvereff discovering these rogue skateboarders bringing this thing to India. Appropriating the American sport, and making it, one supposes, their own. One imagines Zvereff following these guys around, the lone wolf, photographing this phenomenon. The skateboarders don't look particularly Indian, but the subcontinent is wide and contains many peoples.
It turns out not so much.
Red Bull imported some guys to skate around India, with a fucking crew of video assholes to film the whole thing while these guys charge around during Holi doing the usual "grinding the shit out of everything and wrecking it". We don't actually see them wrecking stuff, but anyone who's not lived under a rock knows that skateboarding tears shit up. Now, if they were actually Indians, that would be one thing. Still asshole kids, but I can kind of get behind it, at least they live there. But no, Red Bull actually flew in assholes from other continents to go smash up the Indians shit with their boards. And Zvereff came along for the ride to shoot this thing.
Yeah, yeah, I know. "Skateboarding is not a crime" but you know what is? Wrecking other people's shit is a crime. Yep, it actually is a crime to break, damage, or mar things that don't belong to you. As a former teenager I feel your amazement at this revelation, but I swear it's true. Going to foreign countries to wreck people's shit on film to promote a god damned sports drink should be a capital offense. I'm not the most politically correct dude, but I'm not an animal.
Honestly, I love the pictures. The pictures are uniformly pretty good, and there are a few with real poetry to them. But the context is too savagely horrible to contemplate. I hate these people, and I wish them the very worst possible outcomes for this shit.
Dan Zvereff, fuck you, fuck Red Bull, and fuck the whole shitty enterprise.