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Where Travel + Street Meet. A personal and widespread look into the world of Street Photography. Learn about Street Photography and Travel the World through the eyes of Street Photography. Join me as I travel the world on different photography projects one city at a time.
Blog Added: May 07, 2015 09:36:14 AM
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33 Street Photography Photos from Dhaka, Bangladesh

After finishing my last leg of India, I flew to Dhaka, Bangladesh, major city #51 on the project. Dhaka is the densest, fastest growing city in the world, with world leading traffic to match. Working against the congested traffic, city layout and other troubles can bring some challenges, but within all that chaos, is a friendly city full...

After finishing my last leg of India, I flew to Dhaka, Bangladesh, major city #51 on the project. Dhaka is the densest, fastest growing city in the world, with world leading traffic to match. Working against the congested traffic, city layout and other troubles can bring some challenges, but within all that chaos, is a friendly city full of life. Filled with chaotic streets, markets, old world atmosphere, history, spirituality, and energy, you won’t get bored in Dhaka. Along with all that, though, it brought the most welcoming experience and passionate photography community to date.

So here’s 33 photos that I was able to capture during my time in Dhaka…

33 Street Photography Photos from Dhaka

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For more info on Dhaka, be sure to check out my first impressions from a street photographer’s perspective. And stay tuned for one of my City Street Photography Guides to Dhaka.

Have you photographed Dhaka before or do you plan on it someday? Let me know about it in the comments below!

And let me know which photos you like best too!

Click Here for More “33 Street Photos” from Cities Around the World   

 



7 First Impressions of Dhaka, Bangladesh (From a Street Photography Perspective)

After finishing my last leg of India in Kolkata, I took a flight to major city #53 Dhaka on the project. At first sight, Dhaka is the densest, worst traffic, fastest growing city in the world. That can be an overwhelming first impression, but if you’re willing to explore underneath all that chaos, you’ll find one interesting...

After finishing my last leg of India in Kolkata, I took a flight to major city #53 Dhaka on the project. At first sight, Dhaka is the densest, worst traffic, fastest growing city in the world. That can be an overwhelming first impression, but if you’re willing to explore underneath all that chaos, you’ll find one interesting city full of charm. While not the easiest city to just jump into as a traveler, the people are as friendly as you’ll find anywhere, and you’ll find them everywhere. No matter where you are in Dhaka, there’s something going on. Filled with chaotic streets, markets, old world atmosphere, history, spirituality, and energy, you can’t get bored in Dhaka. It also happened to have the most welcoming photography community I’ve ever met, which really made my first experience what it was.

So here are my first impressions of Dhaka, from my personal Street Photographer perspective…

7 First Impressions of Dhaka
(From a Street Photography Perspective)

1. Dense and chaotic

By some measurements, Dhaka is not only the most densely populated city in the world, but also the fastest growing. It definitely feels that way too. People are everywhere. Not just in the busy markets streets or city center, but in any street or neighborhood around Dhaka. I stayed far from the center, but it didn’t matter because I could have just explored my surrounding neighborhoods and had plenty of activity to capture. I talk about traffic in the next section, but foot traffic fills the streets and alleys too around every corner. It’s hard not to compare Dhaka to many of India’s larger cities because there are similarities in the atmosphere, and the street life is one of them. People live outside and there’s enough people in Dhaka to make that outside life very chaotic. You won’t usually have much room to shoot, but you’ll have endless layers and interest to attempt to organize.

2. Traffic is the worst I’ve ever seen (and that’s saying something)

Dhaka, without question, has the worst traffic I’ve ever seen. People from big cities love to complain about their traffic, but I guarantee their city has nothing on this one. It’s no secret, though, as Dhaka has become known for it. As mentioned before, Dhaka is the most densely populated city in the world and the fastest growing. Combine that with a severely lacking transportation system and only 7 percent of the city covered by roads, it gives plenty of reason for all the traffic. Still, it doesn’t make it any less astonishing how slow it moves.

Not only does all that traffic add to Dhaka’s atmosphere, but it also means you really have to prepare your day around it and include many hours for traffic. The long layout of the city doesn’t help, either, making places further apart. While there’s not too much you can do about it, leaving early in the morning is the best advice. Traffic doesn’t reach its norm until a little later in the morning so at least you can beat some of it. When it’s time to go back home, though, you’ll just have to deal with it. The Dhaka heat mixed with hours in a vehicle can at least help you catch some sleep.

3. Old Dhaka

Old Dhaka is the heart of the city’s chaos and character. It doesn’t feel like too much has changed over the centuries here with an atmosphere of crumbling homes, historic winding lanes and endless crowds of people. It’s extremely easy to got lost and you’ll find maps or navigation won’t help you out much, so getting lost is just what to do here. There’s a lot of area to explore too, with rickshaws being the transportation here if you don’t always want to walk. 

The busiest, and most interesting area for me is by the Sadarghat. The Burgiganga river here at the Port of Dhaka is a sight to see, filled with a variety of boats, from small wooden rowboats to giant ferries. On the banks, the streets are even more crowded with porters unpacking produce and markets selling them. Sometimes you can’t even move here, but in the more open spaces it provides a very unique atmosphere. One that I picture in my memory of Dhaka as much as any place.

Shankharia Bazar, also called Hindu Street, is another recommended spot to check out in Old Dhaka for a different charm, more reminiscent of India. There’s also a district named Armanitola, where early colonial Armenians settlers came. Old Dhaka has plenty more spots to check out, but its best to just randomly find them on your own. It’s chaos and character around every corner with a very local feeling for street photography. 

 

4. Keraniganj Shipyard was one of my favorite spots for uniqueness and color

On the outside of Dhaka, just across the River Buriganga, you’ll find the Keraniganj Shipyard. This ended up being my favorite spot in Dhaka for photography. I like unique places that you don’t find in other cities and this definitely fit in that category. Around 15,000 workers are employed here, either busy breaking down gigantic shipping vessels or building them. Welding torches and hammers are seen and heard everywhere while you navigate through the obstacle course of ships and alleys. Many of the large ships are colorful, which when mixed with sunlight can create some interesting shadow and color play in photos.

You should be respectful and careful where you walk due to all the work being done, but everyone is very friendly towards anyone coming to photograph. It’s a unique and fun place to explore with your camera. And an added bonus is the wooden boat ride you get to take crossing the river. These rowboats give you a different perspective of the city, while navigating across the busy port.

5. Dhaka brings the heat, but not always the light.

Even when Dhaka gets hot, and it gets real hot, it doesn’t always mean you’ll get much sun. Dhaka can bring a lot of clouds and haze due to the climate and pollution. This combines to take the light down quite a bit at times. The sun did come out while I was there, but I’d say around only 20% of the time, which I was told isn’t out of the norm in Dhaka. You might notice that flash is popular with some of the well-known street photographers in Dhaka, and that’s partly because it can come in handy to combat the bad light Dhaka can have. 

Kamalapur Railway Station can be a good place to head when the clouds turn to rain, though, as it provides cover while still being outside with some light. It also can get pretty active and supply a variety of interest. Many of the local street photographers like to head there often. Dhaka’s light is just something to keep in mind when out shooting, as it doesn’t always cooperate like you might expect from such a hot climate.

6. Kawran Bazaar is another nice spot

Karwan Bazar is a business and commercial district in Dhaka, but it’s also home to one of the largest wholesale markets not only in Dhaka, but all of South Asia. The wholesale fruit and vegetable sections are some of the most chaotic and interesting, but you can explore this large area of market life for hours. With over one thousand shops in and around the market, you can find an endless variety of goods for sale too. Every night hundreds of trucks come to unload items for the day. It’s messy, busy and crowded with activity packing the streets, but it’s what makes Dhaka a special place. Nearby, you’ll also find the train tracks, which are lined with more life, including more street sellers. Walking the tracks here makes for an enjoyable atmosphere too. The best time to explore this area of Karwan Bazar is early in the morning, though, when the action is really going. 

7. Great photography community and the most welcoming experience to date

I have to mention how my impressions of Dhaka were more influenced by the people than any other city I’ve been to. Bangladesh has gained a very strong passion for photography and it’s filled with photographers. The passion for photography currently seen here honestly rivals any place in the world, in my experience. More specifically, the street photography community has become strong recently too so I had many connections in the city. More than that, though, they were eager to welcome me to their city and show me all they could. 

Md. Imam Hasan and Shah Toufiqur Rahman were there to pick me up at the airport as soon as I arrived, definitely a first during my project. And from there, it was non-stop love from them and other street photographers in Dhaka. Md. Enamul Kabir, along with Md. Imam Hasan, asked me to do an Artist Talk and set it up through the Insight Collective and Sony, which was a great experience getting to meet so many different local photographers. Every day there, though, Md. Imam Hasan, was there to show me around, joined with others included below. It was an experience I’ll never forget and truly blew me away.

Drinking some coconut with Md Imam Hasan 

Many thanks to all of them. So, be sure to check out these talented local photographers below who I now can also call my friends:

If any of you have been to Dhaka before, tell me about your experience and impressions of the city and country in the comments below! And stay tuned for more on Dhaka, including some of the best Street Photography shots I captured while there.

Click Here for More First Impressions on Cities Around the World 

(from a street photographer’s perspective)

     



Street Light : Photo Books and Zines (September 2018)

Street Light is a bi-monthly series where I’ll showcase newer photography work to purchase that might not have as much visibility or large production numbers. From smaller run-offs to zines to books to crowdfunding campaigns, I’ll try to feature selections of work that you’re not as likely to find in bookstores everywhere, but you’ll wish...

Street Light is a bi-monthly series where I’ll showcase newer photography work to purchase that might not have as much visibility or large production numbers. From smaller run-offs to zines to books to crowdfunding campaigns, I’ll try to feature selections of work that you’re not as likely to find in bookstores everywhere, but you’ll wish you had known about them. Hopefully, this can be a way to help talented photographers get they’re work seen for purchase, while also helping readers find great work they didn’t know was available. So, check here to find what’s out there, much of it before it’s gone. (All bi-monthly selections will be added to a permanent page, organizing them together so you can come check anytime)

And if you have a new photo book, zine or crowdfunding campaign, or if you’d like to recommend another photographer’s, please comment it below!

Photo Books & Zines : September 2018

(Selection information quoted from links)

Books

Jason EskenaziBlack Garden & Departure Lounge

RED HOOK EDITIONS announces two new books by Jason Eskenazi: Black Garden & Departure Lounge, completing a trilogy together with his first book Wonderland: A Fairy Tale of the Soviet Monolith. The cycle closes, coming full circle back to the beginning: 314 photos numbered sequentially through all 3 books with 9 chapters.

The Black Garden moves into the mythological world of opposites and duality, and concentrates on three main themes: subjugation of women, domination over the animal kingdom, and self-destruction through war. 154 photographs including 9 panoramics were made from 2001-2017 in Turkey, Greece, Syria, Iraq, Ukraine, Egypt, Libya, and New York. The Departure Lounge‘s 83 photographs were culled from Eskenazi’s archive, dating from 1991 to the present. The images investigate how we depart from reality, from friends, and from ourselves, using the Departure Lounge as the metaphorical room from which we leave.

ALSO available are the two books in a special numbered edition of 200, with an 8×10 silver-gelatin print (Choice of one of the four above) by master printer Laurent Girard.

The books will be offered individually at a later date at a higher regular price. This Pre-Sale ends on November 1st, 2018.

Both books designed by Roï Saade.

View/Purchase HERE

View/Purchase HERE

 

Tavepong PratoomwongGood day Bad Day But EveryDay

GOOD DAY BAD DAY BUT EVERYDAY represents the first Photobook of internationally-acclaimed photographer, Tavepong Pratoomwong. The photobook encompasses the curation and compilation of Pratoomwong’s most outstanding photos during his daily street jaunts since 2014. Several photos have experienced award after award. Pratoomwong, therefore, drapes the refined continuation of the self-categorized photos into this limited-hardcover photobook in which an exclusive discount coupon is attached for up to 15 SONY products with the total value of 1,490 THB, or equal to the book price !!! (Only SONY Store Bangkok)

View/Purchase HERE 

View/Purchase HERE 

 

Alex Liverani : Dango

Three colored balls held together by  a wooden skewer became the best known Japanese dumpling:  DANGO.

“Hana yori Dango”

This is a Japanese saying, literally meaning: “dumplings rather than flowers”.

The expression refers to the people following the tradition of Hanami, the custom of enjoying the beauty of the flowers, especially during the Sakura season when cherry trees blossom. However, people seem to be more interested in eating Dango sweets than appreciating the beauty of the flower sight.

This expression unequivocally points out the practicality of Japanese people, who attribute a more important value to substance rather than aesthetics.

With his book “DANGO,” Alex creates a creative visual research about Japan with the aim of questioning such proverb through sequences in which the content and the aesthetic form bear equal importance.

A rhythmic succession of triptychs in which images with no apparent link with each other find a strong connection, as is the case of the three colored balls of the Dango dumplings.

The book, whose concept was conceived and studied by the author, is not only the container for the images themselves but is also and above all the aesthetic form thanks to which the content gets enhanced.

DANGO won the JURORS ‘PICK award at the LensCulture Street Photography Awards 2018.

View/Purchase HERE 

View/Purchase HERE 

 

Olga Titova : Pride

Pride

Once mythological, pride was seen through the valleys of the north-and then lost among us. Since then, he has been secretly living here, but one day he will disappear forever.

Fuam Dummy Book Awards (Istanbul), 2017

Vienaphotobookaward, 2017

Photobookfest (Moscow), 2017

View/Purchase HERE 

View/Purchase HERE 

 

Stephen Leslie : Sparks

(I had this as a special mention way back on my 2016 list of books, when it was only a crowdfunding campaign. Well, fast forward to now and it’s a brand new real, live, hardbound book ready for delivery.)

A family is brought close to ruin by a pet python; an Icelandic advertising agency has a problem with a campaign involving a dead seagull; a chiropodist desperately wants to stop examining people’s feet and dreams of becoming a pirate…

Stephen Leslie has always tried to capture images that hint at wider, hidden narratives – suggestive moments rather than decisive ones – and Sparks is a book that imagines the weird and wonderful stories behind his original street photographs.

It is a love-letter to photography, pairing eighty beautiful colour images – shot on film – with these stories, as well as the author’s recollections of twenty years spent looking through the lens.

View/Purchase HERE

 

View/Purchase HERE

 

Zines

Dmitry Stepanenko : In Bloom

IN BLOOM is a new (and first zine) by Dmitry Stepanenko containing photographs taken in Japan during the sakura bloom season in March 2018.

A small edition of 100 copies is available through his website.

The zine has 60 pages and contains 47 photographs, many not shown before.

The price of the zine is only £15 + p&p. 

You can see the full preview of the zine here: www.youtube.com/watch?v=yTb…

View/Purchase HERE 

View/Purchase HERE 

 

Enrico Markus EsslFrom A Fairy Tale

Theater photography from the perspective of a street photographer.

This project was implemented over a period of one year

with the aim of creating an own dramaturgy in grayscale

and a non-everyday point of view for the observer.

Thanks and enjoy the view from my perspective.

Enrico Markus Essl

Limited Edition 2018 

  • 50 copies /48 pages / numbered and signed.
  • including a real fine art photo print

View/Purchase HERE

 

View/Purchase HERE

 

Crowdfunding Campaign

Charalampos Kydonakis (Dirtyharry)WARN’D IN VAIN

Warn’d in Vain : a NYC story by dirtyharrry

I asked two of my favorite childhood books to help me put my thoughts together on paper; ‘Warn’d in Vain‘ – the book of this campaign – is a NYC story inspired by the Argonautic myth. It is a twin book of ‘Back to Nowhere‘, a parallel Minotaur tale from Crete, hopefully to be published at some moment in the future.

Warn’d in Vain‘ is a stranger’s questionmark inside the world’s most photographed city; made between the years 2014-2017 that I spent 7 months on the other side of the ocean.

Warn’d in Vain‘ book :

  • photographs & design by dirtyharrry
  • A5 size
  • 118 color images from NYC in 160 pages
  • edition of 950 copies + 50 white cover copies

View/Fund/Purchase HERE

 

View/Fund/Purchase HERE

 

If you have a new photo book, zine or crowdfunding campaign, or if you’d like to recommend another photographer’s, please comment it below…



33 Street Photography Photos from Kolkata, India

After photographing Varanasi, the last stop on my final leg of India for the project was Kolkata, coming in at Major City #52. Years ago, Kolkata was my first introduction to India. After visiting so many other cities in India since, there was always something I missed about Kolkata. I didn’t know if it was how...

After photographing Varanasi, the last stop on my final leg of India for the project was Kolkata, coming in at Major City #52.

Years ago, Kolkata was my first introduction to India. After visiting so many other cities in India since, there was always something I missed about Kolkata. I didn’t know if it was how you never forget your first or if Kolkata something special, even by India standards. Well, after coming back to include it my project, Kolkata does have something special. It’s confirmed. While one of India’s largest cities, it brings an old world atmosphere and chaos compacted into a city that’s much easier to walk than other big Indian cities. It feels made for city photography too, which is why it’s known so well in the photography community. While not as known to the general traveler as places like Mumbai, Varanasi or Rajasthan, I’d recommend Kolkata just as highly as any of them. Especially for street photography.

So here’s 33 photos that I was able to capture during my time in Kolkata…

33 Street Photography Photos from Kolkata

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For more info on Kolkata, be sure to check out my first impressions from a street photographer’s perspective. And stay tuned for one of my City Street Photography Guides to Kolkata.

Have you photographed Kolkata before or do you plan on it someday? Let me know about it in the comments below!

And let me know which photos you like best too!

Click Here for More “33 Street Photos” from Cities Around the World   



Master Profiles: Richard Kalvar

* “Master Profiles” is a series profiling all the great photographers of uncontrolled life. Unlike the rest of the blog, I’m doing these in a straight profile format to make it easy for quick access to facts, quotes and knowledge on all the masters. I’ll also group them together here every time I add a new one. Profile: Richard Kalvar (1944-Present)...

* “Master Profiles” is a series profiling all the great photographers of uncontrolled life. Unlike the rest of the blog, I’m doing these in a straight profile format to make it easy for quick access to facts, quotes and knowledge on all the masters. I’ll also group them together here every time I add a new one.

Profile:

Richard Kalvar (1944-Present)

American photographer known for capturing absurd, sometimes humorous, scenes from the banality of day-to-day life.  

Background:

Born: November 14, 1944 in Brooklyn, New York, USA

Born in Brooklyn, New York as an only child from a lower middle class family, Richard Kalvar didn’t find his interest in photography until adulthood. After studying English and American literature at Cornell University, he decided to drop out and follow his creative streak through an assistant photography job for fashion photographer Jérôme Ducrot. After a year working for Ducrot, he decided to take an extended trip around Europe for some adventure. Ducrot gave him a camera as a going away present and after the trip, before even developing his film, Kalvar knew photography was what he wanted to do.

Starting out, his focus was more on personal photography and expression instead of making a living as a photojournalist. He worked assignments for various magazines to make enough money to get by, while taking his own photos for himself. After two years in New York, he moved to Paris to join the Vu Photo agency, and in 1972 helped found the Viva agency. In 1975, he joined the prestigious Magnum Photos agency, later even serving as the president.

Kalvar’s work is able to capture a strange and humorous aesthetic from banal, real life scenes, which he refers to as a “tension between two realities.” He calls the people he captures candidly, “unconscious actors in little dramas they don’t know they’re in.” Most of his work takes place in the US, Europe and Japan. Over his career, Kalvar has been highly selective with showing his work, which culminated in his book Earthlings, but more recently he’s become active on Instagram, where you can see more of his past work. Today, he lives in Paris and continues photographing life’s quirks, while teaching workshops in Europe and the US.

Style:

  • Humor, absurdity captured from the banality of daily life. 
  • Characters. “People used as unconscious actors in little dramas they don’t know they’re in.”
  • Tension between two realities. “Playing with the false impression of reality, with the ambiguity of appearances.”
  • Clean compositions without mess. 

Gear:

For a trip to Europe in 1966, French fashion photographer Jérôme Ducrot gave Kalvar his first camera, a 35mm Pentax. After that, he took most of his personal photos with Leica rangefinders over the years. Since he switched to digital more recently, he shoots mainly with full frame Canon DSLR’s, in addition to a Sony full frame. As far as lenses go, he’s always preferred the 50mm focal length.

Quotes:

“A photograph is what it appears to be. Already far from ‘reality’ because of its silence, lack of movement, two-dimensionality and isolation from everything outside the rectangle, it can create another reality, an emotion that did not exist in the ‘true’ situation. It’s the tension between these two realities that lends it strength.”

“I capture reality, never pose it. But once captured, is it still reality? I’ve always tried to play with the false impression of reality, with the ambiguity of appearances. Things are what they seem to be, or maybe something else. I use people as unconscious actors in little dramas they don’t know they’re in. These pictures are about Earthlings, but I’ll let you in on a secret: I’m an Earthling myself.”

“When I first began in photography, I was liberated by seeing The Americans. Not that I wanted to take the same pictures as Frank, but I was excited by his way of “reacting to” rather than “showing.” “Showing” struck me as a little boring.”

“There’s a certain irrational element that afterwards I can describe and try to analyze. I look at the sheets and suddenly I see, amid all the crap, something that sticks out and works – and works in a way that has a kind of hysterical tension in it. It’s funny, but also disturbing at the same time. It’s no longer the thing that was being photographed, it’s a scene, it’s almost a play.”

“The photograph is completely abstracted from life, yet it looks like life. That is what has always excited me about photography.”

“I walk around a lot. That’s necessary. I try to go to places where interesting things might happen. And I’m always looking. At relations between people. I’m attracted to people doing things with each other. Mainly talking, as a matter of fact.”

“It’s a basic rule of humor that a joke is always at somebody’s expense. Really good jokes, however, tend to be at everyone’s expense.”

“I’m kind of shy and sneaky and aggressive at the same time. Sometimes I have the nerve, sometimes I don’t.”

“I’m trying to create little dramas that lead people to think, to feel, to dream, to fantasize, to smile… It’s more than just catching beautiful moments; I want to fascinate, to hypnotize, to move my viewers.”

Related Photographers to Check Out:

Lee FriedlanderGarry Winogrand, Tony Ray-Jones, and Martin Parr.

Recommended Video:

Recommended Reading:

Earthlings

Instagram: @richardkalvar

Highlighted Work:




7 First Impressions of Kolkata, India (From a Street Photography Perspective)

After finishing Delhi and Varanasi, I took another train down to major city #52 Kolkata to finish my second leg of India on the project. While new to my project, Kolkata isn’t a new first impression to me, but it was my first impression of the country many years ago. It was such a good first impression...

After finishing Delhi and Varanasi, I took another train down to major city #52 Kolkata to finish my second leg of India on the project. While new to my project, Kolkata isn’t a new first impression to me, but it was my first impression of the country many years ago. It was such a good first impression too that I knew I had to come back to include it in my 100 major cities. One of India’s largest cities, Kolkata doesn’t have the same big city atmosphere as Mumbai or Delhi. It feels a little more welcoming and easy to step out the door and start exploring away with your camera. It’s one of the most walk friendly cities you’ll find for its chaotic size, which makes it perfect for street photography. Kolkata has a special, old world atmosphere mixed into a highly populated urban city. The colonial-era architecture contrasting with urban slums, it’s also gained a reputation as the most friendly of India’s metropolises. While it might not be as known with the general traveler, it is known among the photography community. It’s made for bringing your camera and exploring away.

So here are my first impressions of Kolkata, from my personal Street Photographer perspective…

7 First Impressions of Kolkata
(From a Street Photography Perspective)

1. Kolkata, my first impression of India 

As a traveler, not many places culture shock you and provide a change of scenery quite like India. After my first arrival here many years ago, no other place has given me the same feeling. Now that it’s been years and multiple trips to India since, not even India gives me that same feeling anymore, either.

This has changed photography here for me too. Some of the photos from India that I’d admired before, don’t have the same interest for me as they once did. And I think that’s the thing about India. It’s a paradise for photographers, but part of that paradise is that it’s so different to other places, especially for viewers. Once you remove that appeal of the different, then you realize that the core and depth of the photo is really what’s important, just like anywhere else. While most snap away here in India and feel they get interesting photos just by luck due to always being surrounded with so much life, the photos tend to all look the same. India provides you with plenty of material, but that doesn’t mean you still don’t have to look for real interest.

Chaos everywhere, people bathing outside, dirty grime that adds texture, bright colors that add vibrance, birds flying, street dogs, street cows, and layers upon layers of life around every corner. These are all interesting, especially for new eyes, but once the newness is removed, what’s left is still what matters most. Sometimes I see too much focus on the uniqueness and newness in India, myself included, but even by locals as well. Kolkata is the perfect big city example of all that exotic newness and interest in India. It’s a special city that provides so much interest, but I think you still have to capture something special and truly new within all that “newness.” That’s the challenge of India, and of Kolkata. To capture something truly special when everything looks special at first sight.

 

2. One of the best walking cities in India

Most of India’s larger cities are spread out, but in Kolkata things feels more compact and within walking distance. By most accounts, Kolkata has the country’s third largest population. With the other top 3 cities like Mumbai and Delhi, transportation is needed much more, with many top spots long distances apart. In Kolkata, I can constantly walk around the city and hit more spots in the same day. The way the city is laid out makes it even easier and faster to get around too if you want to include the metro. Most of Kolkata’s city activity goes North/South along the metro line, without stretching out nearly as much East/West, making the metro easier, faster and not too far off most of the time. A lot of time can be spent in traffic and transport in other big Indian cities, but Kolkata is a great exception, which makes it one of the best walking cities for street photography in the country.

3. Kumortuli is a unique spot to explore

Kumortuli is a neighborhood in north Kolkata most famous for sculpting deities. This traditional potters’ quarter has become so famous for manufacturing clay idols for religious festivals that it exports them all over the world. You can walk through the narrow alleys here and see all the rooms and lanes lined with different gods and goddesses. Most are in the process of being created with straw and clay, while others are fully painted and ready to go. Early in the morning is more quiet, where you mostly only see the workers and locals who live here, and the interesting variety of deities. Later in the day, it can get more crowded, partly depending on the time of year. 

It’s a very unique spot to explore with your camera and something you’re sure not to find elsewhere. There’s a good mix of local life too combined with all the surrounding interest. Nearby, across the train tracks, you’ll find the Hoogly River, where many of the used deities are thrown out near temples for prayer by its banks. I hadn’t made it here during my first visit to Kolkata and was glad I didn’t miss it this time, coming back a couple of times.

4. Everyone goes to the Flower Market and Howrah bridge, but you still should too

The Mullik Ghat Flower Market is the largest flower market in Asia. You don’t need to like flowers to enjoy it, either, because the endless variety being sold here creates one of the more unique and chaotic market atmospheres around. Its location right by Kolkata’s signature Howrah bridge background makes it arguably the most popular place for photographers to come. Behind all the packed stalls of colorful flowers, you’ll find busy steps down to the Hooghly River where people bathe and enjoy the water. If you’ve seen any street photography from Kolkata, chances are you’ve seen this famous bridge background. The market and life here goes from very early morning into the night, there’s almost always plenty happening. 

Now, since everyone comes here and leaves with shots of men carrying flowers or children playing in the river with the Howrah Bridge dominating the background, that means you have to work to capture something more unique. While it’s been photographed so much, you still can’t leave Kolkata without shooting here. There’s too much activity and unique interest surrounding you here. My advice is to go really early at least once to catch things just starting up. The famous Kushti Wrestlers also practice here early by the river, but they always want money, which ruins it for me, but might not for you.

 

5. And of course New Market is full of action

The New Market, also known as the Hogg Market, is always one of the busiest areas in the city. Right in the center of Kolkata, you’ll find rows of shops selling clothes, jewelry, electronics, leather, household items, flowers, sweets and more. The unique red-brick market hall contains over 2000 stalls in all.

For me, the best part of the New Market isn’t inside, but outside in the surrounding chaotic streets. The shopping continues with street sellers, a meat market and more stores, along with some of the street food Kolkata is known for. This area has been the heart of the city’s shopping for over a century, even after a large fire in the 80’s caused much of it to be rebuilt. If you want busy streets and chaotic India, this is a top spot to go. It can get too crowded and somewhat touristy for some, especially among local photographers, but it’s still a must for some exploration. 

6. Very camera friendly, even for India

India in general is extremely camera friendly, but Kolkata still feels even more-so compared to the other major cities. Locals have told me they feel a slight change towards camera suspicion in India over recent years, which I can say I may have noticed a little, but it’s still one of the easiest places to shoot street photography in the world when it comes to reactions. In Kolkata, especially for a foreigner, bad reactions just don’t happen. There is a flip side to that, though. You have to get the shot off quickly if you want it to be candid because people love to smile and pose for the camera. As a foreigner, especially holding a camera, you stand out so they notice you quickly. So, with all that camera friendliness comes both a gift and a challenge for street photography.

 

7. Kolkata still at the top for big city street photography in India

I’d been to Kolkata before, but had to come back to include it in my 100 City project. It had left a strong impression and still remains at the top of my list for big city street photography in India. The more I visit Mumbai the more it competes for the top spot, though. Mumbai wins on sheer number of interesting places to shoot, but Kolkata provides a more compact and enjoyable walking city packed with interest. Let’s put it this why, if I was to live in India for street photography, I’d probably pick Mumbai, but if it was for a street photography visit, then I’m going with Kolkata. Mumbai rewards time and experience, while in Kolkata, you can just jump in and enjoy the unique street photography playground of a city. 

 

If any of you have been to Kolkata before, tell me about your experience and impressions of the city and country in the comments below! And stay tuned for more on Kolkata, including some of the best Street Photography shots I captured while there.

Click Here for More First Impressions on Cities Around the World 

(from a street photographer’s perspective)



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