About: India - The Black and White Series

By Richard McGuire

When I journeyed overland to India in 1977, I carried with me my first-ever single lens reflex (SLR) camera. It was a used Ricoh with screw mount lenses -- a 200 mm telephoto lens and a 35 mm wide angle, as well as a 50 mm normal lens. I'd been using simple cameras since the age of five, but this was my first real camera.

I'd just taken a year of journalism in college, including a course in photo journalism. There, I'd fallen in love with photography, and spent many long hours after school in the darkroom processing and printing my own black and white pictures.

I was determined to document the places and people I saw in my travels. I brought with me a number of Kodachrome colour slide films, which took up a large chunk of my travel budget. Unfortunately these were expensive, and it was virtually impossible to buy more in the Asian countries I visited. And of course, I'd underestimated my hunger for film.

Often in my travels, I carried with me items to sell or trade. I'd brought one of the very early pocket calculators from duty free enclave Andorra, and in Kabul, Afghanistan I successfully traded it for 10 rolls of Ilford FP4 36-exposure black and white film. This allowed me to ration my valuable Kodachrome, and in many parts of India I shot black and white instead.

Rather than carry rolls of exposed and unprocessed film with me, I often had these films processed along my route. I only got negatives and contact prints, no larger prints. I didn't learn until I returned to Canada months later that some of the shops did a poor job of developing the films, and many of the negatives were scratched and otherwise damaged. The results were often very grainy, and some of the developing times were clearly wrong. While I did get some nice prints, others I regarded as ruined pictures.

Some 25 years later, photography was moving into the digital age. I purchased a Nikon Coolscan IV ED slide and negative scanner, and decided to scan my old black and white Indian pictures. I used Adobe Photoshop 7.0 to adjust and fix the digital images. In particular, its "healing brush" feature allowed me to digitally remove the scratches, and I was able to adjust for brightness and contrast and make other corrections. Despite these features, the restoration was still painstaking.

The results are images I'm quite pleased with. While the Kodachrome was great for capturing the lush colourful landscapes of Nepal and Afghanistan, the black and white seemed better suited to capturing the gritty textures of India, its people, rich culture, and human poverty.

The images on this website represent a small sample of the hundreds of black and white pictures I took in India. I hope you enjoy them.

Richard McGuire 2004

Please see Purchase Information  if you are interested in purchasing these photos.


Scanned image with scratches and damage

Same image repaired in Photoshop