“Portrait #1” by Thierry Girard

I worked in southern India in 2010 and 2011, and particularly in the city of Pondicherry which is a former French colonial trading post. I returned to Pondicherry in October 2022 with the intention of focusing more particularly on the common people in the fishing district or in the alleys where the lower castes live.

Helped by a guide who knew these neighborhoods well, I entered many houses and made more than 80 portraits. That one is the first on the list. It happened a little by chance when looking for the right distance to photograph a magnificent sacred tree near a street intersection, I set up my tripod in front of a house whose threshold was surrounded by votive images.

A young woman beckons me to enter and I discover in the second room a “madman of God“, in this case a madman of Shiva holding in his hands the trident (or Trishula in Sanskrit) which represents the main attribute of the destroyer god. To see the look and the determination of our Shiva warrior, war is declared against lies, bad thoughts and everything that overwhelms us. Shiva, the destroyer god cleanses the world of Evil.
I photograph him in two different places in the room. My guide speaks to him in Tamil, he obeys without ever uttering the slightest sound and without ever leaving his hallucinated gaze for a single moment. As he is almost constantly gripped by violent tremors in his arms, chest and face (I don’t know if this is a mystical trance state or simply a form of physical debility), the shot is difficult because I try to balance natural light and extra flash and I operate at a very low speed. It’s like photographing during a stormy day between two gusts of wind. I will photograph another madman of God later, but all the other portraits are of ordinary people.

What do you think are the TWO most impactful features that make your image a good photograph? Don’t be shy!

The very strong presence of the character locked in his madness.
The general construction of the image.

If you would be able to make this photo once again, what would be the ONE thing you would like to do better or different?

I would prefer not to have the light spot on the metal cabinet. This is not due to the flash but to an opening at the top of the wall behind me.

Thierry Girard shared this photograph in the FRAMES Facebook Group.


Thierry Girard, France


Equipment and settings

Fujifilm GFX 50SII
35 mm, f/9, 1.5 sec.

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Comments (1):

  1. Nazmul Bashar

    February 25, 2023 at 12:21

    Lord Shiva had a darker side, some see him as the leader of evil spirits. The image very well depicts that side of Shiva. I thoroughly enjoyed Thierry Girard’s narratives of the context he shot this photo.


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