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Sunday, November 15, 2009

We're all out of birds at Bharatpur...

Leaving Jaipur we drove to Bharatpur. Bharatpur is a small town with some interesting history. It is the place where Shah Jahan’s wife died shortly giving birth to her 14th child. Her husband, the Shah, was so grief stricken he built a mausoleum in here memory. In so doing he nearly bankrupted the region with a twenty year project known as the Taj Mahal.
With that famous structure situated in Agra, Baratphur is now better known for its bird sanctuary. This famous sanctuary has seen visits from royalty from all over the world for nearly two centuries. These famous individuals were here to shoot birds too, although not with a camera or with the best intention. One of these famous visitors is recorded as having shot over 4000 birds in one day. Why the destruction of innocent animals fascinates gentlemen of this stature evades me. I would rather point a long lens, hear the repeated clicks of a shutter and let the creature live. It is a far more creative and environmentally friendly endeavour.
The monsoons have not been too good over the last decade and the birdlife has somewhat diminished in the park. The authorities have tried to keep the park active by pumping water into its lagoons but it has not been overly successful. Nonetheless, we found ourselves in the park at sunrise photographing what we could. There are antelope in the sanctuary, along with cattle of course. But the birdlife was a non-event – at least for photography. Whatever was to be seen was too far away to be adequately captured no matter what lens you had.
As usual, I found walking through the village near The Bagh (our fabulous accommodation) more interesting and rewarding than the sanctuary. We were welcomed into private homes and got to see the real life of the local people. Even the simplest houses and homes were fitted out with colour TV sets and satellite dishes, naturally tuned to the Australia vs India cricket match. Being from Australia made our conversations very lively and humourous with the locals and there was a great opportunity for common ground. However, while we may enter each village with the intention to remain as inconspicuous as possible, it is not long before the children catch on. In some cases they become very excitable and will sabotage your attempts to photograph other things. This they do by jumping in front of your lens or in front of the subject in the hope that you will once again take their picture instead. After a while this gets beyond your control and you have to leave. So, we did. Nonetheless, we had a lovely time in the village area and we are all grateful to the lovely local people who made us feel very welcome.
Leaving Bharatpur we headed for Agra, the famous city of the Taj Mahal and the Amber Fort. On the way however, we stopped in at an amazing site known as Fatehpur Sikri. This site was once a large city built by a powerful Moghul and the size, design and architecture are all quite incredible. However, after only a 14 year reign in this place, it was abandoned. One can only wonder why you would do such a thing. It was quite something in its day.

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The Life, Times and Images of photographer, Shelton Muller

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