While the stories of the photographed
Mathura Junction Railway Station
Delhi to Agra train
Uttar Pradesh, India
Taken during travels, 2017
This one frame is a story told in just 1/1600th of a second.
It’s a fascinating story, though to be completely clear, it’s at least as much a story told by the person who views the photograph as the photograph itself, or the photographer who framed, processed and posted it, or — most importantly — the people, cultures, architectural structures, society and country caught within the frame for just 1/1600th of a second.
The integrity of the stories viewers tell themselves about this photograph depends on the intimacy of their knowledge about everything inside the frame — every nuance — but also, where the photograph was taken and when, and even the photographer who took it, why it was chosen from 111 others, how he processed it from the original digital file.
I doubt that anyone who ever views this photograph will recognize anyone captured by it. Just a guess, but I assume most won’t ever have been to India. Fewer still will have taken this train. I would be surprised if anyone who visits this page will have ever stopped in Mathura Junction Railway Station, stood on its platform, or even recall passing through (I wouldn’t recall had I not photographed it, including a few with a sign telling me which station it is).
All the stories that will ever be told from looking at this photograph are little more than our own stories projected onto it.
The beautiful old man standing just off the frame’s centre is pretty much a complete mystery to me. Nonetheless, I chose this photo from several frames which captured him, then cropped it consciously and strategically to place him so your eye would not only be drawn to him but also pleased to find him there. The Ferrari-red jacket of the fellow to his right was the brightest thing in the frame, and very distracting from the visual story which is for me, in very few words, “Old Man at Mathura Junction”, so I muted its colour, significantly. I cropped out a lot of the ceiling from the original, and a fair bit from the right side of the frame to position the old man, but left in most of the rails so it would be clear where the story takes place.
In one sense, that’s how I manipulated the story you would tell yourself while looking at this picture of people waiting on a railway platform in India, including how I titled it, if you paid any attention to that at all. In a more artistic sense, it’s simply how photographers tell stories with photographs.
Right now, though, I really wish I could take a few moments to stop and ask the old man about his story. A photograph is such a superficial storyteller.