The Beauty of Camels: A Takeover by On the Road Media
Maho Irigoyen and David von Blohn are the duo behind On the Road Media, a video production company. Maho, a native of Argentina, and David, who was born in Germany, met in Chile and are now based in Mexico. With backgrounds in film, philosophy, and political science as diverse as their origins, they travel the world to tell visual stories about inspiring people who promote change.
Storyhunter: Can you tell us more about your project?
On the Road Media: The project is about Ashok Tak, a camel decorator. We met him through his nephew when we were at the Pushkar Camel Fair in India looking for new stories — the nephew told us about how his uncle had won many camel decoration competitions. When he showed us photos of him, we were hooked! Ashok is such a colorful character we wanted to tell his story even if we didn’t have time to pitch it to our regular clients. We spent over a week at the Camel Fair to capture the atmosphere of the event and Ashok’s role in it. It was incredibly tiring but we got some amazing footage. Having recently finished an emotionally draining short film about widows in India, we were drawn to this story mostly because of how visually attractive it was and that it was a light piece about a sweet character. Besides, camels are just hilarious!
S: What is your favorite picture from the Takeover?
ORM: That’s a hard choice because we’re so in love with all of them! David (the early riser of the team) used to get up at five in the morning to go to the camp where the raikas (camel breeders) were staying, since it was the best time both for lighting and to try to avoid the hoards of photographers that swamped the fair. We love all the photos of the people in the community, but I think one of our favorites is this:
Maho took that photo after we finished shooting with Ashok and a family of nomadic musicians at the camp. Ashok said he had learned about camel decoration from villagers, so we wanted to recreate that. We absolutely loved their music and bought the CD they were selling to use in the short film. After finishing the shoot, they shared their cigarettes and chai with us. They told us that they traveled around playing their music in festivals like the Camel Fair because they had no land so this was their only way to make a living. Even though we only spent a very short time with them, it was so lovely to be able to communicate with people so different from us but with so much in common, like our mutual love for art and traveling. The father of the band gave his turban to David to try on!
S: What draws you to the freelance life?
ORM: As the word implies (apparently, the word freelancer means someone “not sworn to any lord’s services”), we feel the best part is the freedom it allows us. For Maho, one of the greatest perks is not having to wake up early everyday and being able to work during hours that suit her better (she’s usually more productive in the afternoon and evening). Not working for a specific company or organization means we get to choose the stories we want to make — the ones we really care about. Working on different topics and places inspires us far more than if we were always focused on the same subjects. And undoubtedly, traveling so much and being able to meet so many different people is a great privilege. One of our favorite parts of the job is going somewhere nice to edit after we finish shooting, usually in a natural setting.
S: What is the most challenging part about being a freelancer?
ORM: Of course, there’s always the uncertainty of not knowing if the stories you pitch will be accepted or not, or being able to reach an understanding with the people whose stories you want to tell. For example, we usually work in Latin America where we know the language and the customs, so in India we found it much harder to work and pitch stories because we were outsiders, we didn’t speak any of the local languages and were just beginning to understand the culture. Also, not having a home base can be hard since you’re constantly looking for a place to stay and, most of all, a decent internet connection.
S: What was the most memorable part of this assignment?
ORM: Everything was memorable about India, no doubt. In general, the biggest shock was the difference between the world outside and the one inside. The streets are incredibly noisy since there seem to be no traffic rules and vehicles can be very unpredictable and drivers honk nonstop. The biggest thing was the almost complete lack of sidewalks, since they were either blocked by people, garbage, cars, and even cows, or nonexistent, so walking around was a nightmare. In contrast, the inside of people’s homes and the temples are very clean spaces where you have to take your shoes off and can enjoy peace and quiet. And of course, one of the most memorable things was the amazing vegetarian food!
By Jindalae Suh, Writer at Storyhunter