Holi in Montreal

While I was in Montreal, Adora mentioned that she was going to Holi on Saturday evening. “What’s Holi?” was my immediate question. The response—the Indian festival of colours where everyone throws colour at each other… “Can I photograph it?” I asked, with little hesitation, “it sounds like it would be a visually stunning event,” to which Adora responded something like “no, I don’t think so. You’ll get colour on your camera, and I don’t think it’ll work.”

That was when I hadn’t planned to be there on Saturday evening, but then I decided to stay. The dilemma was that they were sold out, and there was a waiting list to get any tickets that became available. What else was there to do but play the photographer card? I contacted the organizers and told them that I was a photographer interested in capturing their event, and they instantly jumped on the opportunity. A few hours later I was being ushered in by the main organizer, past a long line of people waiting in the cold to get in. I was pretty excited to photograph. I love colour and people, and here I was about to capture both at once!

It was a fantastic evening – one of the most stimulating and reviving events of my break. One of the most common things that you’ll hear photographers say is that it’s not about the fancy camera, it’s about your the connection with the place and people that you photograph.  That couldn’t be more true. Early in the evening I began wandering around and offering to take pictures of groups of friends, gesturing above the pounding Indian music. For the rest of the night I had a continuous stream of people coming to me to be photographed. It was a lot of fun, and I felt a real connection with the crowd. At a few points they got a little too comfortable and attempted to colour me. It was a good thing I took measures to ensure my camera was properly covered and remained black and white.

On the way home, Adora and I spoke about the beauty of the festival. Adora commented that she thought that everybody should celebrate this way. What a unifying experience — getting together to throw colour at each other! It was a wonderful and uplifting evening.

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They told me that they were there for the previous three days setting up and covering everything with plastic. Apparently they tried it outside one year (it’s of course outdoors in India) but everybody froze.

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It began with a delicious Indian dinner.

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Prepared for an onslaught of colour.

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This is the first group that I photographed.

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