Alfred Hitchcock called the black‑and-white filming process "the actor's friend". It makes most actors look good, or better. India might be well described as the photographer's friend. It makes most photographers look good, or better.
August 1997
Arundhati Roy
Photo Editor: Stephanie Heimann

The Maharama of Udaipur.

Bombay actress, Rekha.
A land of colours and images more consistently striking than perhaps any other, India has lent itself to the science of film, both moving and still, more generously than any other.
Writers can all too easily come unstuck tackling a country which has been written about ad nauseam. India has had every adjective in the book heaped upon it with gushing praise and travel writers' solemnity. Photographers, however, are met with an eternal backdrop ‑ ever changing, yet constant.
Despite the pitfalls of deep shade, glaring light and pervasive haze, picture takers and picture makers flock to the subcontinent in droves.
Consequently, to make one's mark as a notable photographer of things Indian today is no easy task. The fact that mediocre though usable pictures of that country are ten a penny has frustrated the ambitions of many talented people.
One photographer who has risen above the pack is Mary Ellen Mark, who, working away from the normal spheres of photogenic immediacy, has made a name for herself with such projects as Falkland Road, a book about Bombay's notorious red‑light district.
Mark first travelled to India on assignment for Paris Match in the late 1960s, to photograph the new wave of young Western travellers in search of spiritual and hedonistic relief.
Since then she has become one of the world's leading documentary photographers, and has returned to India many times, producing other books, including Mother Teresa's Missions Of Charity In Calcutta and Indian Circus, a fascinating insight into a very dosed, very bizarre, very human world.

"I feel very lucky because of the many wonderful life experiences that my work brings to me," says Mark. "I am allowed to touch a very rich world. I make my photographs to share these experiences."

Ram Prakash Singh with his elephant in Ahmedabad.

Two girls in Rajasthan.

Mother Teresa, Shishu Bhawan, Calcutta.

Girl in the Ganges, Benares.

Arundhati Roy, author.