Stories from the Road: Profile photos

Stories from the Road is a collection of stories about my own photographic adventures in South Asia. Sometimes the stories are exciting and sometimes mundane and at times emotional. This section deals with vernacular photography and the way we all experience the photographs we see. What they meant when we took them and what they mean over time.



Shadow Portrait, Udaipur, India, 2015

In this week’s, Stories from the Road, am going to look at the photographs I have used for my profile photos over the years. These photographs were taken in South Asia. I will discuss why I use these photographs as profile photos, how I came to start taking these photographs, and why I uses certain photos for certain platforms, as well as, why I continue the trend today.

The photographs that I use as my profile photos are both self-portraits and shadow portraits as they are my own shadow. The example you see above is the photograph I use for the blog. I took this photograph in Udaipur in 2015 when I was here for my residency. I continue to use it for the blog because now I am based in Udaipur, so I guess it is more central to my identity as an expat in India. The photograph was taken in September 2015 behind a temple next to Lake Pichola. I was making a photograph of the scrap marble and a box that was laying on top. I just happened to notice my shadow and I snap the photograph. Interestingly, the photograph I was making that lead to the portrait no longer exists. After returning home last year I dropped the external hard-drive that my photographs from the trip and residency were saved on and lost all the files. Luckily, I had saved this portrait to my computer to upload it to Facebook.

Shadow Portrait, Daulatabad Fort, Maharashtra, Indai, 2009 and Shadow Portrait, Qutab Minar complex, Delhi, India, 2014

The first shadow portrait I made in South Asia was taken on my first trip in 2009. It was towards the end of the trip and my professor, her professor, another graduate student and myself were at Daulatabad Fort in Maharashtra. We were standing in a courtyard which was surrounded by columns and I noticed my shadow, so I snapped a photo. Even though I first made a shadow portrait in 2009 I did not use it as a profile photo. The first time I used one of these portraits as a profile pic was in 2013 after returning from a trip to Delhi. The shadow portrait I made in Delhi was at the Qutab Minar complex on my birthday, October 5.

Shadow Portrait, Taj Mahal replica, outside Dhaka, Bangladesh, 2015

After making the portrait in Delhi, it became a thing. The next shadow portrait I made was in Dhaka. On mine and my mother’s first day there we traveled just outside the city to the Taj Mahal replica. I love it. It is a small Taj Mahal made from tile. It resembles the Taj Mahal in Agra in shape only. Once returning home from Bangladesh I changed my Facebook profile image to this one. It is the most colorful of all the shadow portraits I have made to date.

Shadow Portrait, Bundi, Rajasthan, India, 2016 and Shadow Portrait, Kathmandu, Nepal, 2016

Since returning to India this year, I have made three more shadow portraits, one in Bundi, one in Kathmandu and the last at the Taj Mahal in Agra. The portrait from Bundi was my Facebook profile photograph for a while, until I changed it to the one from the Taj Mahal. I have yet to use the one from Kathmandu because I went to Kathmandu and Agra on the same trip. I had wanted to visit the Taj Mahal for so many years, the photograph from there overshadowed the one from Kathmandu. I should make the shadow portrait from Kathmandu my profile photo on Google+ or change it on Facebook.

Shadow Portrait, Taj Mahal, Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2016


I guess making these types of photographs was just happenstance and I continued. I like using them because I think they do not distract. By that I mean it keeps my online content about the content instead of what I look like. However, if you are curious about what I look like there are photographs of me on the blog. However, on Facebook I change them regularly on my personal page, it keeps things interesting. I continue to use the shadow portraits today to keep the content about the content and to give me one more thing to make photographs about. Furthermore, the photographs incorporate one of my favorite things, architecture.  I have never been that excited about having my photograph taken and these shadow portraits are a good alternative.

* indicates required
Photo Focus: Anushree Fadnavis
Stories from the Road: Qibla Wall, Qutab Minar Complex, Delhi, India

By |2018-10-15T12:28:18-05:00December 6th, 2016|India|0 Comments

About the Author:

Betsy Williamson is an assistant professor of art in the state of New Mexico. Before coming to New Mexico for this job she was an adjunct professor throughout Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas, teaching photography and art appreciation. Between September 2015 and May 2017, she took a break from teaching to pursue art, research and life in India. Now she is back to teaching and part-timing it in India.

Leave A Comment

sign up for email list to be informed of new class material (posts)

Join 244 other subscribers