I love the expression on this warrior-performer's face. Touphema, Nagaland, is in remote northeast India next to Myanmar in the eastern Himalaya. This man is wearing Sekrenyi Festival regalia, the dress used in the annual celebration of virility, harvest and good fortune.
Many Naga people speak English. When I visited the hilltop villages with a small group a few years ago, outsiders had only been able to enter the area for four years; to many locals, we were light-haired, pale-skinned exotics.
As the Sekrenyi Festival got started this warm February day, I was wearing a beautiful hand-woven melon-colored wraparound skirt that a women had lent me and urged me to wear for the special day. As I watched people getting ready for a dance, I was so intent on the photography, that I stumbled into some prickly grasses and got the skirt coated with bits of brush. Several people around me helped to pick the pesky pieces from the beautiful fabric. It was a funny few minutes, and a lot of us were giggling. This group of dancers watched, bemused. When I approached with my camera and motioned my head for permission to shoot, this dancer spontaneously extended his comfortable gaze.
It reminds me of something that the writing teacher Sands Hall echoes in her terrific writing classes — something she learned from her father, the novelist Oakley Hall. I may not have the words exactly right, but the sentiment is about how so many of us are fueled by a need simply to relate to each other on one level or another. Sands fondly invokes Oakley's words in her classes: "Our purpose as writers is to connect: To only connect."
That works for photographers, too.