So why am I so mad at Zvereff and his Rajput Ride photos?
Essentially, it is because of the amazinging falseness of them. This is partly my fault. I looked at the pictures alone, without any context, and came to some conclusions. Those conclusions were wildly wrong, and part of that is surely my fault. That doesn't change the fact that I'm mad.
Further, I think I am justified in much of my assumption.
While a more astute eye than mine might well have identified the skaters as foreign. I don't think anyone could identify the photos as "a behind the scenes, and a rather slanted one at that, of a Red Bull sponsored event." The video, interestingly, is much more balanced. You see that India is not a bunch of narrow alleys populated entirely by elephants, scooters, and picturesque old men. You see that, despite Zvereff's remarks to the contrary, there's plenty of beautifully maintained and nearly new concrete to be "shredded" by the skaters.
No, what Zvereff gives us is the same fake McCurry fake India, only this time with skateboarders. What are we to make of this? The tropes are all there indicating True Culture Documentary (in the National Geo style). While one might not necessarily read this as "Indians are skating in Jodhpur" but one can surely be forgiven that assumption. It is, I think, completely impossible to realize that these photos are actually a Red Bull ad.
Did they get all the required permits? Irrelevant. Persuading bureaucrats that the fee you pay makes up for your obnoxious behavior is not at all the same thing as not being obnoxious. As a former resident of San Francisco where you can get a permit for anything, I can attest that paying the relevant fees does not make you beloved by the residents, and it doesn't make you not an asshole.
Did the locals actually love them? Well, that's surely the narrative they would promote, and it's largely un-checkable. And again, it's largely irrelevant. The Indians thought the British were pretty funny with their silly hats and the standing around outside all afternoon "guarding" things, too. In any case, the standards of the locals are not the only standards in play here. By the standards of the west, this sort of thing is pretty shitty and, as westerners, they should answer to those standards as well.
Of course, let's be honest. It's Red Bull and skateboarders, statistically, we're most likely talking about awful, self-absorbed, egoists. Do you really think they made sure to get all the permits that might apply?
There's just no way this wasn't a bunch of foreigners, permitted or no, loved or no, charging around in a foreign country grinding the edges off of various people's concrete objects, getting in the way, and generally being pushy and obnoxious, all in the service of selling an unpleasant beverage to frat boys.
And that is not even close to what the photos said to me when I first saw them.
And that is why I'm so irritated.