Destination India

Photography by Jeff

My dad was an avid collector. Cards, vinyl records, DVDs, cassette tapes, CDs … and National Geographic. In some ways, you could say that my love for photography was born out of the pages of those magazines. And while I never dreamt of becoming a photojournalist (I was way more interested in studying sharks or the stars), I’ve always LOVED the photography and vividly remember many of the stories found in those older issues.

Last year while travelling through Vietnam, my friend Julian and I discussed all things photography related including education and inspiration, only to discover that we both grew up under the influence of National Geographic (he went on to become an award winning photojournalist). It was a conversation that stuck with me and eventually led me to my sister’s house where I re-discovered my dad’s NatGeo collection, safely kept alongside some of his old vinyl records. Apparently my sister has become the keeper of our family’s most valued treasures.

I sat down with my kids and we spent hours thumbing through issue after issue, making up top 10 lists of the places we’d most love to visit. For me it was places like Italy, Africa, Kenya, Nepal, Japan and Tatooine (aka Tunisia – and if there’s a couple out there willing or planning to get married on Tatooine, I’m 100% all in!). We came across the May 1997 “India” issue, one of my favourites because it not only features photography by someone whom I greatly admire, Steve McCurry, but India has been at the top of my list for quite some time.

Coincidentally, a few weeks after visiting my sister, Karen + Ken contacted me to schedule their engagement shoot. My original plan was to visit them in Calgary for a winter themed shoot in the mountains, but the conversation ended up going something like this:

Me: “How about I come out to Calgary in March?”
Karen: “We’ll be in India shopping for the wedding.”
Me: “How about I come to India?”
Karen: “…”
Karen: “…”
Karen: “OK!”
Me: “…”

I spent 2 weeks in India, most of the time following Karen and Ken armed with camera. I travelled from Jaipur to Jodhpur to Delhi with a quick day trip to Agra (where I decided to hop a fence into the backyard of the Taj Mahal, oblivious to the fact that it was surrounded by security who promptly escorted me out), and I never put my camera down.

India is wondrous, but I don’t think that I’ve ever had a harder time summing up an experience. My brain couldn’t keep up with my eyes. It’s a place where the food is as rich as the tradition and history. It was beautifully shocking, horribly stunning and it pummelled my mind, body and soul with an onslaught of hospitality, generosity, kindness, and love. India remains firmly on my list of places I’d most love to visit, again, maybe for another engagement shoot, maybe for a wedding, maybe to speak at one of the amazing conferences that are hosted there, or maybe for the opportunity to shoot alongside Steve McCurry (ok that one is unlikely, but hey, I’m just throwing these out to the universe).

Karen + Ken … thank you for introducing me to your beautiful family, friends, chai tea, cricket, Bollywood soundtracks, hookah and bringing me along for your unforgettable trip to India! I cannot WAIT for your wedding!