Falconry, the world over, has long been considered the favourite activity of authority figures, evoking images of courageous, wise and powerful leaders.
In the imagination of Medieval Europe, Mughal India or Imperial Mongolia, falcons symbolised high status – a concept eloquently expressed by an ancient Danish proverb:
In the Arabic world, falcons continue to be considered a status symbol and a luxury commodity, accessible only to a few who can afford their soaring prices.
The sitters of these portraits are neither wealthy nor powerful. They are men of modest means, who have come from South Asia and the Middle East to the city of Doha in Qatar to work as falcon shop keepers. They are unaware of the powerful connotations that have been historically surrounding these animals.
Yet, when posing with a falcon on their arm, an aura of majesty, pride and restraint falls upon them. Like a costume, the bird of prey transfigures he who holds it, affecting his posture, glance, and self-presentation. These photographs capture the suspended moment in which these men are temporarily elevated above their humble status of servants.
I took these pictures in Trani, a seaside town in Northern Puglia. I spent one winter weekend walking up and down the shoreline, looking at the sea, the coast, the birds, and the rocks. I was amazed by the rate at which the scenery changed throughout the day. That weekend I realised that getting to know a place intimately feels just as good as going back to familiar sceneries.
I was in Delhi with a bunch of friends and they decided to fly to Ladakh for a short visit. It was a very nice trip. I reached my highest peak (almost 17,000 feet), I saw peaceful monasteries perched on mountain cliffs, and rode a Tibetan camel (not that impressive, actually). Yet, in spite of the breathtaking landscape, the wonderful company, and the mystic peace, what I remember most vividly of that place was the cold: the blistering cold that seeps through your skin, no matter how many layers of clothing you wear.
Says who that museums are boring?