Michele Wambaugh's passion for photography is as intense as her emotional bonding with India

Cool isn't really a word that you would associate with a granny. But Michele Wambaugh, with her childlike excitement and innocent enthusiasm for all things Indian, earns herself that tag bang on the first meeting. This veteran photographer from Houston looks at India with the same awe and zest as a six-year-old would, at a colourful aquarium. Thanks to her little girl's perspective and unusual observances, this 50-plus American photographer manages to make India interesting even to us Indians who see, meet, smell and feel India at the street corner everyday.Have you ever wondered at the enormity of our movie hoardings? Noticed the splash of colour and fingers in a weaver's hand? Admired the content look on the faces of rural women lounging in their courtyards on a lazy afternoon? Michele did and that's how her collection of 52 awesome shots all set to be put up at the Texas State Museum of Asian Culture in March this year came about. `Sensory overload' is how she describes India in all its colour, noise and textures.Michele was in the city this week to do some more research for her Indian section of photographs. Currently, she is working on her dream project of portraying India in its true colours - through the faces of the Indian women. "I am aiming at a democratic collection where I shoot Indian women from various strata. From the simple tea picker to the voluptuous Telugu cinema heroine, a weaver at Pochampalli to Sonia Gandhi, I want them all," she says. Her target is 1,000 different faces of Indian women. Phew! While in Hyderabad, she managed to shoot two memorable and beautiful women. Dream girl Hema Malini and Sadaa. Her voices trails off when she pronounces Sadaa's name. "I hope I got the name right," she says quickly fidgeting about for her journal where she diligently jotted down every little detail about her stay in Hyderabad. Her diligence, eye for detail and her lucid expression is obvious in the journal and is perhaps her secret of her success as a leading photographer.Michele's love with India began from her childhood when she was surrounded with Indian friends and it grew into a torrid affair when she married a famous Indian doctor. Her intermittent trips to India have only made her more passionate. "While I've been a commercial photographer ever since I was in my 20s, my fascination for India began after I had recurrent dreams about an Indian bride rising out of blue waters. I attribute my Indian collection to that one photograph (titled `Namaste') that motivated me to explore India beyond the obvious," she says.Her extensive work on the tribals of India is impressive, so is her collection titled `Signage'. "Isn't this so cool," she asks showing a photograph of a hoarding with actor Tarun put up at RTC Crossroads. Well ma'm, India is all about how you see it!MANJU LATHA KALANIDHI

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