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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Rajput Ride

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.

Holy crap.

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.

You suck.


  1. B pointed out the second paragraph of his artist statement, which I think speaks for itself:

    "To say skateboarding in India was difficult is an understatement. In addition to some of the most neglected and dilapidated cement on the planet, the local population was so amused by the act of us riding a board that any attempt at filming a trick resulted in huge crowds of people, which were almost impossible to manage. To top it off, because of the thousands of flies and mosquitoes, and the unhygienic practices of the local populations, almost everyone in our group contracted a virus and fell ill. So why go? In fact, India’s draw is in its repelling qualities. We came because no others wished to, in search of a unique experience shared by few."

    1. Having been the subject of professional imperialists, you'd think the Indians right be offended by this kind if cut-rate bargain-basement imperialism!

      Dear Red Bull. Please report to The Queen for some remedial training.

  2. Ah yes, RedBull, the epitome of all things gracious and noble. Oops sorry, must be thinking of someone else.

    Look at their target market.
    They couldn't give a toss about cultural sensitivities - which is a shame given that the Austrian company was based on and shared by a Thai original.

    Still, I'm sure that all those who indulge in the foul brew will have second thoughts. No, wait a moment, they won't.

  3. I think the captions seem to explain what the photographer was doing there and that the skateboarders were German not people who live in India. What's wrong with introducing a new sport or hobby to people in another country? As far as the shoot, it seems like it's up to RedBull and the photographer and the skateboarders, and the terms of any contracts they may have signed, if doing a commercial shoot allowed for the photographer to take photos for other usage or to use to promote his photography. If they damaged anything then it seems like they should have taken responsibility for it; I didn't see anything happen in the video or in the photos I saw. Seems like if they needed permission or permits it was up to them to obtain that. Twice this summer a movie was being made in the area near where I live, and while Hollywood coming to the Midwest isn't quite the same as going to a foreign country, it usually involves closing streets and a certain amount of crowd control. Seems like it's similar in being a commercial shoot and up to the people who live there if it's permissible.