“At the beginning, we didn’t take any photos; we tried to give help buying rice and other bagged foods,” says photographer Carlo Marrazza (he/him/his) to the Phoblographer about his photography project around the Bakkarwal of Jammu and Kashmir. “Then we asked to have their portraits taken, and they agreed. I think, and hope, that in most of their faces, it is possible to see the awareness of the hard times that await them.” Carlo’s project has won him awards. And it’s easy to understand why when you look at the images and understand that these are some of the past true existing nomads in the world.
All images by Carlo Marrazza. Used with permission. Please follow him @carlomarrazza. This interview has quotes that were corrected for English accuracy.
Table of Contents
How Carlo Marrazza Photographs the Nomads
Carlo always remembers having a camera on him. He’d spend time with small point-and-shoot film cameras and even remembers his first SLR cameras. He started using an Olympus OM2 and an Olympus OM4ti back then. Both of those cameras are incredible and have several fantastic lenses available to them. When we reviewed CineStill 50D in 35mm, we used the OM4ti in super cold terrain. It worked like a charm, and we’ve tested several digital cameras in the past that probably would have trouble in that kind of cold.
“I used to develop film and print by myself in a room of my house, then, slowly, I went for digital,” Carlo tells us.
The Power of the Fujifilm GFX System
Over the years, Carlo has used several camera brands. His work has been done on Canon, Nikon, and Leica SL cameras. However, he was hooked on the quality when he tried the Fujifilm GFX series of cameras. He loved them so much that he sold all his other gear. “…I have a Fuji GFX 100 and a new GFX 100 II with some GF Lenses: 23mm, 32-64mm, 110mm, and 250mm,” he tells us. Specifically, he tells us that it’s due to the reliability and the weather resistance. “I don’t have to and can’t worry much about rain and dust. And I’m sure that if I don’t make any mistakes, the quality of my files will be exceptional.” That quality comes through in his images.
The Bakkarwal still live as they did centuries ago, according to Carlo. Because they’re nomadic people, they’re constantly moving around to find what’s best for their way of life. “They spend the cold season in Jammu, where the winters are mild, and the summer in Kashmir, where the climate is more humid and there is more grass for their animals,” he shares. “The particularity of these people is that they, with their livestock, cross the Himalayan mountains, which divide Jammu from Kashmir, ON FOOT.” That obviously is quite a task as so many things can go wrong in the mountains.
In the past year, the weather was extremely bad. Carlo shares that many lost the majority of their livestock due to the cold and snow. “When we met them, they were desperate because they had lost much of their ability to sustain themselves.”
Carlo made documentary-style portraits of these people. And to do this, he had to make them completely at ease. That’s when you just start to understand basic human psychology. If the people are desperate, then you need to appeal to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs. And if you stabilize the base of the pyramid, the other sections have a bit more of a chance of flourishing. So for Carlo, he wanted viewers to get the impressing that they’re right there with the Bakkarwal people.
“I found it extremely useful spending time with the people I shoot without even taking the camera,” Carlo says to us. “I don’t look at the watch, when I think that a little confidence has been created, then I take out my camera.”
On AI Imagery
Making a project like this obviously requires a person to be out in the field, as an AI cannot do anything like this. Despite that, Carlo likes AI. But he says that it’s not photography. “For me everything is important: the travel, the difficulties, the people I meet, the relationships that are created,” he expresses. “Of course, I edit my photos, but very little now, especially since I use a flash and a big softbox. If you see the two photos, unedited and edited, they are practically the same — only the WB, the contrast, and saturation are slightly adjusted.”
The Phoblographer works with human photographers to verify that they’ve actually created their work through shoots. These are done by providing us assets such as BTS captures, screenshots of post-production, extra photos from the shoot, etc. We do this to help our readers realize that this is authentically human work. Here’s what this photographer provided for us.