Thursday, 5 January 2012

POV: Street Photography In Old Delhi

The Quizzical Guy. Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

The Coco Seller. Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved

The Don't Photograph Guy. Photo © Tewfic El-Sawy-All Rights Reserved
Old Delhi is one of my favorite locations for street photography, and is a must stop for me when I'm in India for my photo expeditions/workshops.

I produced a short documentary audio slideshow on the Spice Porters of Khari Baoli of Old Delhi, but on my way through Chandni Chowk, I started photographing with my M9. While some of my photographs were made by shooting from the hip, most were not. Chandni Chowk, as any other market and public place in India, is a dream environment for street photography since it teems with living tableaus.

Notwithstanding, most photographers are bound to be noticed and stared at. Now, this is a problem because the essence of street photography, as told to me many years ago by Costa Manos, is that no one must see the photographer. In other words, if any subject in one's street picture is seen looking at the camera, the photographer has "failed" in capturing the moment. Perhaps extreme, and very difficult to achieve in India where people are alert, curious and have no problem at dropping what they're doing to stare at whatever and whoever interest them.

It takes a little more speed, sometimes stealth, and certainly patience to work around this. We all have our techniques, but I find that a lot patience and "fading in the background" works best. Eventually, the most curious loses interest and I have free rein in photographing as much as I care and need to.

Here are some examples of the street photography "obstacles" I faced during my latest trip in Chandni Chowk.

The top photograph is of someone I describe as "The Quizzical Guy". He saw me photographing, and just froze alongside some mannequins, and kept staring at me for a while...trying to figure out what I was doing. So I photographed him.

The middle photograph is of someone who's the exact opposite of The Quizzical Guy. He probably saw me photographing The Coco Seller, but didn't care and just walked through. If he didn't notice me, he's probably a rarity amongst the crowds of Chandni Chowk.

The bottom photograph is of the "Don't Photograph" fellow. The man had absolutely nothing to do with Khari Baoli, but thought he had authority of telling me not to photograph. I get this type of people quite often...and I tell them quite firmly they ought to move on and find something better to do. He must have been a retired police officer who missed his authority. He wagged his finger at me, and quickly left.