Blog | Weddings by Gayatri | Candid Wedding Photographer in Chennai

Soumya & Vinod | A wedding in Chennai and a cancelled birthday party

Chennai. Dec 2016.

 

Meet Aanya. Aanya is the bride's niece. Like most wedding stories, this one isn't about her, but just look at this face would you? For me, on this day, Aanya was the star. This is the face of a kid who is about to be told in a few hours, that her much awaited birthday party, that she has spent all morning inviting people to, is about to be cancelled. All because the Chief Minister of this state is critical, and there is no saying what what might transpire if something untoward were to happen. No one wanted to take a chance. 

Meet Aanya. Aanya is the bride's niece. Like most wedding stories, this one isn't about her, but just look at this face would you? For me, on this day, Aanya was the star. This is the face of a kid who is about to be told in a few hours, that her much awaited birthday party, that she has spent all morning inviting people to, is about to be cancelled. All because the Chief Minister of this state is critical, and there is no saying what what might transpire if something untoward were to happen. No one wanted to take a chance. 

Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
and here is Aanya, half way through the wedding, energy levels are visibly down but she hangs in there, constantly by the side of her aunt, the bride. 

and here is Aanya, half way through the wedding, energy levels are visibly down but she hangs in there, constantly by the side of her aunt, the bride. 

Soumya & Vinod

Getting back to the wedding, I had the pleasure of shooting Soumya & Vinod's beautiful wedding in December, last year, and here are some photos shot by me with Shuchi Kapoor and Lakshmi Jagan. 

Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod
Soumya & Vinod

Jonathan + Frances | A Wedding in New York City

Sometime in September last year, I happened to be walking around Brooklyn Bridge park and witnessed a really beautiful wedding happening right in front of. What you see in the image below is the ENTIRE WEDDING PARTY. Anyway, I took photo of this and posted it. 

Little did I know, that at the same time, Jonathan & Frances, were hunting for a wedding photographer in New York, and just happened to come across my post! They emailed me and checked if I was available to shoot their wedding in the coming month. Initially, I'd planned to leave New York before their scheduled BIG day, but I decided to stay a little longer and shoot their wedding. For me, this would be a first. A Cuban-Italian couple, getting married in Manhattan's Lower East Side. How could I refuse? 

Jonathan and Frances are both event professionals from Brooklyn and they'd planned their wedding to the final details. There were going to be just 50 guests, and me. Jonathan had picked out Frances' dress and his shiny gold shoes. They went to pick up flowers the day before the wedding from the Chelsea Flower Market, where most of the city's flower vendors come to buy their flower supplies. Supplies run out by 9 in the morning so you need to go early. 

The wedding was held at the roof of the Standard Hotel in Lower East Side, Manhattan with live music keeping us warm & the crisp New York fall breeze keeping us on our toes. 

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Venue: The Standard Hotel  | Bride's Dress: Oscar de la Renta | Flowers from Chelsea's Flower Market

Here's to both the couples! The one that got married on Brooklyn Bridge, and the one that got married just across the river. 

Talking to Girls about periods

It all started when I first stumbled upon the Menstrupedia Facebook Page. I loved the way they'd approached a topic so so taboo in India. Along with a really well made comic book, they had an animated film that illustrated in great detail all the things you need to know before reaching puberty through a lovely story about three young girls. That very moment I knew I wanted to work with them! I signed up as a volunteer and used their material (i.e the video and comic book) at a girl's home in Haryana where my Mom worked. The material was really well received by the girls as well as the staff who often find it difficult to speak on periods with young girls. 

After that session, when I came home to Chennai, I knew that I wanted to continue doing this and since the video was in Hindi (a language unfamiliar to most young girls in Tamil Nadu), I reached out to Aditi, the founder of Menstrupedia to see if we could get the material in Tamil. They were working on it but it was unlikely to be ready any time soon due to their other commitments. At around the same time, Schools of Equality (another great organization I like to think I am associated with) was working in partnership with Eco Femme (an alternative, eco-friendly sanitary product- made from cloth) to conduct a workshop at a Govt School. Eco Femme has an amazing Pad for Pad program that educates young girls about puberty and also distributes Starter Kits for girls who wish to try it out. I sat in on that session conducted by Harishini completely in Tamil. It was such a fun and informative and most important, interactive class. Here are some photos from the class. 

I was really inspired with the way Harishini taught the class, almost like an older sister and not a teacher which is what I think made the girls come out and ask questions and share their stories. 

I had approached a school in Chennai, Ramana Vidyalaya to maybe do a similar session with the girls there. Somehow the timeline didn't work and the Menstrupedia video wasn't ready in either English or Tamil. So I searched the internet for more such videos. To my rescue came Mythri Speaks. While I found the animation of this video slightly lacking in comparison to the Menstrupedia video, it was still quite a comprehensive video about menstruation and hygiene in my opinion (I had some issues about the part where they talk about marriage and pregnancy but I think for young girls, it was OK). 

On the day of my planned session, I took almost one hour per class (starting from class 5 to class 8) and after a brief interaction, we got into the Mythri video. At the end of each of the 3 sections, I would stop to make sure that they'd understood everything by asking them questions or by making them draw out things on the blackboard. To my surprise most girls were very enthusiastic and curious and they asked a LOT of questions! I'm still compiling a list of the questions that we couldnt answer either because we ran out of time or because some were quite medically specific. 

The school also insisted that since I had all of them together I also take out some time to talk about good touch/bad touch as well as the some of the dangers of online-interactions with strangers. 

With the girls in Class 9 to 12, I was able to go into the topic a little deeper as most of them already knew a lot about periods but just had questions that needed answering. 

The feedback was so satisfying from the girls as well as from the teachers who probably felt a little uncomfortable talking about these topics themselves. 

I'm so glad that there are folks like Menstrupedia, Mythri and Eco Femme who are all out there trying to make the lives of young girls better and I really want to be part of this movement. 

If you have a school, community or group that would benefit from such a session, please do write to me! gn@gayatrinair.in

Mrigayanka and Akshay's Wedding Book

Click on the first page to see in full screen mode. 

Rizwana & Irshad's Wedding or How I fell in love with Rameswaram.

WARNING: this is a long-ish post with lots of photos. 

In late 2014, I got a call from Jasmine. She was calling from Rameswaram and we first struggled to communicate in my broken Tamil. She was quick to fix this and switched to Hindi which surprised me. I made a note to find out how this came to be. Her sister, Rizwana was to be wed in April and they were hunting for a female photographer. I'd been wanting to shoot a Muslim wedding for a while so I jumped at the chance. So one fine hot April evening I set off on the Rameswaram Express (Did I mention I love train journeys?). 

The train ride alone is worth the trip. You can spend hours looking out the window (or in my case, the door) 

The train ride alone is worth the trip. You can spend hours looking out the window (or in my case, the door) 

My train arrived in the wee hours of the morning and I was whisked away to what I now know is one of the best hotels in Rameswaram. It didn't take me long to fall into a deep sleep only to be woken up around 9.  My lovely host, Jasmine had sent a friend over to make sure I would catch breakfast. I politely refused and went back to sleep. After that there were multiple unsuccessful attempts at waking me up for lunch. Finally, Jasmine sent reinforcements and made sure I was accompanied to the lunch being hosted by her family near the wedding venue. There I was introduced to the lovely Kalam family. The head of the family, Mr. Kalam, runs a successful Sea Shell business (more on this later). I stuffed myself and excused myself to use this free afternoon to explore town. 

Rameswaram is a tourist town, welcoming over 30,000 visitors every day according to some sources. The main attraction is the Ramanathaswamy Temple. Rameswaram is one of the holy pilgrimage sites for Hindus from all over India (and the world). 

 

Agnitheertham - a spot for visitors to the temple to take a dip. It is also popular with cows and goats who come because there is a steady stream of greens for them to eat. One woman tried to sell me a bunch of greens to feed this cow. 

Agnitheertham - a spot for visitors to the temple to take a dip. It is also popular with cows and goats who come because there is a steady stream of greens for them to eat. One woman tried to sell me a bunch of greens to feed this cow. 

One of the many goats there to enjoy the bounty of this spot.

One of the many goats there to enjoy the bounty of this spot.

The lovely architecture of Rameswaram homes. It was lovely just strolling through town. Taken on OnePlusOne

The lovely architecture of Rameswaram homes. It was lovely just strolling through town. Taken on OnePlusOne

I also went into to check out the wedding venue, which is the largest venue available there (run by the Tamil Nadu government) 

That evening there was ladies only event for Rizwana, where all the women of the community applied mehendi on her hands, put on jewellery and fed her generously with pomegranate seeds. I actually did manage a glimpse of the groom, Irshad, that night, but it wouldn't be until half way into the wedding, that I would see him again. 

The next morning, it was time for the wedding ceremony. A simple affair where the men and women were separated out in adjoining tents. After some prayers, Irshad's mother tied the "Thali" on Rizwana to complete the wedding. 

I'd insisted that we go to Dhanushkodi the next day to take some photos of the two of them but it all depended on them waking up! Going by the looks of how tired they were at the end of the wedding, I had my doubts but nevertheless I woke up early the next day but only to pouring rain! But it being my last chance to see Dhanushkodi, I dragged myself out and made it to the 4wheel gypsy that would take me there. It rained the whole time I was there and I wasnt even able to step out of the vehicle. 

On the return journey, Rizwana called me and said she & Irshad wanted to go back! I hoped the weather would get better for my next trip except this time, it was just way too sunny! 

Oh, I forgot to mention the 300 times our vehicle broke down. 

Oh, I forgot to mention the 300 times our vehicle broke down. 

The last thing before I boarded my train, was at to attend a small ritual at Jasmine's home where Irshad and Rizwana would play some ice-breaking games. 

Pallanguzhi was one of the games being played. Interesting note: It belongs to a family of games called 'mancala' whose variants are played in parts of east coast and western Africa, Maldives, Philippines, the US, Europe, the Caribbean, Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan!

Read about this old world game here and here.

...and on that note, I bid Rameswaram goodbye! 

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Photos taken with OnePlusOne, Fuji X100 and Nikon DLSRs