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Captivating Portraits

October 14, 2001

Dear Vikas,

I am sending some color photographs herewith on the theme "Captivating Portraits". Photographing faces of women is as hard a task as photographing flowers and birds. Whenever I see  interesting women, I think about how I can capture their personality through their faces in a photograph. I am able to document even the most common of the faces of India. Beggars, cable workers, road-construction workers follow this category of women. 

© K. L. Kamat
Portrait of a Siddi Woman
Portrait of a Siddi Woman

During my recent trips to Honavar and Dharwad, I was successful in convincing a number of  ladies to be photographed. I am going to a few examples of how I convinced them. In the picture 11707 (shown above), a lady belonging to Siddi community was exchanging domestic views with two men, one of whom was very drunk. I wanted to photograph the woman and her friend, and started a conversation about their names and professions. But when I mentioned pictures, the drunkard straightaway refused. The lady was a talkative woman like my sister Krishnekka, so the conversation went on, and I was able to explain what all I could do with her pictures. Then after several conditions, she talked the man into agreeing. After I photographed them, she said she wanted to remember me, and took ten bucks from me! I won't be surprised if they had more drinks with that money. 

© K. L. Kamat
Portrait of a Mapli Woman
Portrait of a Mapli Woman
(Maplis are the migrants from Malabar settled on the west coast of Karnataka)

The girl in the picture 11708 (shown above) belongs to the Mapilla community in Kasarkod village. Her family members used to cure dry fish in Malikurva island. After the island was submerged, they have relocated to Kasarkod, and her husband now catches live fish. When there is a common law that Muslims have to cover their faces, I dare not ask to photograph her face! However, a long time ago, with Tulasidas (Kamat's brother) I had attended a wedding in her family. I told her that I have written about that wedding in a publication, and a lot of people found it interesting. She herself then asked to be photographed, and even convinced her friends to pose.

© K. L. Kamat
Portrait of a Goulini
Portrait of a Goulini
The Gouli community are migrants from the state of Maharashtra, and engage in milk trade.

The woman belonging to Gouli community in picture 11709 (shown above) is from village of Kiravatte. She was relaxing in a tea shop enjoying paan and village gossip. She didn't know what a camera was! So others tried to explain to her what photography is using different analogies. You can see the element of confusion on the clueless face of the poor woman.

© K. L. Kamat
Woman belonging to the Konkan-Maratha Community
Business Savvy Fisherwoman

The woman in picture 11710 (shown above) is a leader of :Fisherwomen's Association" in Kumta town. She's both business and people savvy, and sorts out all kinds of problems that arise among the community. You can see her success in her heavy  golden jewelry. 

Like this, there's a story behind every portrait. 

Please use these pictures for your Web programming as you wish.  Writer Hemalata Mahishi who happened to see these pictures just before I mailed these to you, exclaimed that she didn't know there was so much diversity in the faces of our women.

Yours affectionately,


See Also:

  • The Indian Beauty -- Portrait gallery of beautiful Indian women by K. L. Kamat. A cross section of Indian population is represented in this series titled "The Fair Sex".
  • Women of India -- Frequently asked questions and articles on the roles and status of women in India. Includes biographies, topics on Sati, widows, history and artifacts.
  • Stories Behind Pictures -- Interesting anecdotes, and personal accounts of experiences, and stories behind the stories while producing Kamat photo collection.
  • Muslim Ladies of Kurva -- Kamat narrates an experience of photographing Muslim women of rural Karnataka. The story reveals many untold tales about Muslim women of India.


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