Clickable Mumbai - Photographer's Eldorado

You know why? because all the 'ingredients' for a "Typical Great Photograph" are easily available here!

* * *

In the foreground, A street kid with a 'leaking' nose carrying a 'handicapped, nude' barbie doll that he picked up from the garbage bin. In the background it's his mother washing the plates sitting right next to the public drainage; she's out of focus, along with the other blurred elements from the back ground, leaving it for us to unfold their 'story'. (thanks f5.6/18-135 Zoom on a Canon 450D)

The close up of an old man! A Powerful portrait. The look in his eyes are enigmatic. The sharp detail of oil and dust accumulated on his wrinkled face is just fabulous. His grey hair has almost turned yellow-brown; each strand is clear. (50mm normal Lens on a Nikon D80)

Well, the pictures described above, were just from my imagination, Purely hypothetical. But think, while you were reading that, how difficult it was for you to visualize such an image? Quite simple, eh? you've seen hundreds of images like these. "Typical Great Photographs", Let's call it TGP.

Well, I will never say that it's easy to click a TGP. It's extremely difficult. But the thing is, if you're a photographer who has the will power to click TGPs, Mumbai is all yours!

Look around and you'll see TGPs everwhere! It's a city of all kinds of people. From the extremely poor to the extremely rich. Everyone's here. And they share the same space, everywhere. Filth, garbage, kids, beggars, orphans, slums, drainages, streets, streetlights, Hondas, Mercedes, Armani, Gucci, Prostitutes, Hyatt, Peninsula, Taj, Transgenders, Dharavi, Redstreet, Marinedrive, Colaba, chaipav, Pizza, cutting chai, Pasta.... You've got everything!

As I said before, Mumbai is a Photographer's Eldorado. It's gold everywhere you just need that willpower to take it from there.

But wait a minute, It's a photograph! Not a movie 'about' Mumbai. It's a photograph, Not a sketch. And what do you think is the most important difference between a photograph and a sketch (or a movie or a painting) ? It's the fact that Photographs deal with stories of real people!.

When you(and me) point a camera and click a TGP, we are telling stories from that poor little man's personal life!. Who the hell are we to do that? It's not a story about 'someone'. It's the story about that particular person in the photograph!. An individual's story! Obviously without his permission!

Since it's so easily available in Mumbai, we sometimes take it for granted that the life of the poor is for us to show to the world. NO! It's THEIR precious life. They're doing everything right in front of our eyes (and cameras) because they do not have any other place to go. It's not becaue they find bliss sharing their poverty filled private life (or their wrinkled faces with "sharp details" or "mysterious eyes") to us.

I don't know, It's a mix of feelings that I get when I look at TGPs. More than the sympathy that I feel towards the subjects in the photograph, it's the resentment towards the photographer that's more overpowering. I really don't have any specific reasons for this negative feeling towards TGP photographers, it just comes! It's more of an emotion, it comes from within; not from the logical thoughts.

I chose NOT to give you any direct examples here.Instead,
I'd like to share two things with you right now.

1) The touching story of my friend Vaibhav, where he permanently deleted the photographs that he had clicked.

He says (as a comment to my last post):
"I thought I would write a comment to this post, but now that I've started writing, I don't really find the right words. I chose to remain silent. I am silent, coz I happened to pass by another such group of women who had actually been picking those chicken feet, in old parts of Lucknow, where I had gone on a hobby photography trip. I feel more sad about me, than about them. The reason, I chose to capture their plight on my camera, instead of doing something else. I chose to take images of their shy faces, which they were trying to hide, for they had a complex about their inferiority. I did not react at all. I kept on clicking images with a heart of stone. It was when I returned home and I actually saw those images, that I felt like crying, again, not for them, but for myself. How cruel I was that day. I can't forget the expressions on the faces of the ladies. They were expecting me to leave them alone. But I was a selfish man. i was looking for a winning pic for the forthcoming photography contest. I sure would have won the contest, had I not deleted the images forever from my PC."

2) An Animation by my friend Hashim. One among the best I've ever seen.
Watch it with all your heart (and not your animator-brain)

(posted with Hashim's Permission. Please don't download or use it somewhere else without his permission. Thank you)

If you have watched Hash's animation above, you'll know what I'm feeling right now...

What should I do with my flickr account?


  1. well i would say you should keep your pictures...they will remind you of what needs to be done....when you think back on looking at those pics maybe you will feel that you could go back and do something to better the old man's plight...deleting those pic sould be accepting that you have resigned yourself to think that you are helpless.....

  2. I've read the comment by 'The Umbrella'. I really don't know whether I did it right or not by deleting them, but I just couldn't bear the guilt. Yeah, may be I chose to run away from the fact, and accepted my helplessness. I still don't have a solution to it. I don't know what I'll be doing the next time when I face a similar situation. I wish my instincts guide me to something which I could be proud of.

    And Yes, Biju, you've put it in the best possible way. You've chosen the right words. I am sure there would be more, like you n me, who would have, at sometime or the other, felt the same. I just hope for a better tomorrow, for all. The only question that remains for me is, "Will 'I' be able to bring it?"

  3. That dilemma again! How long will artists fight with this feeling? When I'd first seen Hash's movie, I again felt the same thing. I've felt the same emotions myself.. if not for photography, while writing about the same people. More so when we went out to do our 'contextual inquiry' for the homeless.

    During that study, every night I used to lie in bed struggling to free myself of my education which compelled me to do these things.. We would go there thinking only about how to exercise our newly acquired skills. I felt stumped, foolish and cruel when I had no answer for a lady who asked me what are you going to do with our answers?? Will you get these traffic policemen to stop harrassing us? Will you get our chawl back? Will you get my husband a job, or my child a school, or my brother some medication to heal his fractured leg.. incidentally broken by the police?

    What would I say? No, I will make a goddamn .ppt out of it! But then, just because I cannot do anything to help them, should I not make the ppt? Should I not learn how to talk to them? Should I not understand how to get them to tell their real, honest stories? Of course I should. No use deleting the pictures man. The day you can actually step out and help them, you will automatically stop clicking. Till then, why delete?

  4. With all these talks i feel like a veteran in this subject...
    defenetely biju, milind, vaibhav and umbrellaji... all this is just a
    stage.. there's no better tommorow.. today itself is well and good.. i
    have a story to tell you guys...a long story

    The (Real) Invisibles....

    Day 1

    It was raining heavily in the morning. i woke up with the sound of the
    rain. Reached office cribbing about the roads and the overflowing
    drainages.. again i shouted "chennai sucks" [ no matter wether its
    mumbai or chennai. it sucks.. ] at my office entrance i saw few guards
    shouting at a middle aged lady who was sitting in the footpath just
    outside our office. she was very very thin and weak. with a green sari
    around her. obviously i didnt see all these. i didnt see her only, cos
    she was invisible.

    i must have come down 3-4 times to smoke to the very spot where she
    was sitting. not only me. almost all smokers [ 30-40% of verizon
    employees] might have been there every other 15 mins. she was
    invisible to all... that space was just an empty space with an
    invisble figure in it surrounded by talks about new products, new
    flats, new cars and how much money people make and.. blah blah.. it
    started raining again.. people hurried back.. when i ran inside i had
    to cross this invisible space. When i neared her, she gave me a
    frieghtened look. i went in. but she started becoming visible to me.
    she's sitting in the rain. shivering. with a far look. water dripping
    from her nose and hair [ great subject for a TGP]. it disturbed me. i
    must have gone down 2-3 times more to smoke.i started looking at her
    with more curiousity.

    i was in a hurry to attend a party when i left my office. it was still
    raining and she was still there. like a stick. like a a Ghost who's
    only visible to me. in a hurry i gave her a 10 rupee and asked her to
    have some food.[ I was proud of myself tht i'm the only one who's
    seeing her] But in return she just looked at me. With a strange
    meaning. i still can clearly remember that look. i felt ashamed.
    through out the night it was raining. i thought about her and my
    cowardiness of not doing anything substantial.i was alomst sure with
    such a weak body, she wont make till morning if it is going to rain
    like this. with a disturbed mind.. i slept.. [ :)]

    Day 2

    I started my day with an unclear mind.On my way to office, My guilt
    was more darker than the clouds above me. To be frank i didnt even
    think about her when i reached there. As usual i started working for
    multi millionares. suddenly from nowhere i remembered about this
    ghost. i went down in a hurry with a prayer "let she be alive." . she
    was not there. her space has been consumed by the big talkers. i felt
    a mixture of emotions. To cry, to shout, to kill, to suicide , to
    laugh, to smoke, to sigh..

    suddenly i saw her. on the other side of the road.
    the Ghost is alive. with all the mysteries hidden inside, she was
    staring at me. she looks healthy now.

    i didnt had the guts to look at her. I gathered my courage to look back.
    This is wat i saw. she was smiling at me. an invisible smile.

    Suddenly i realised all the meaning of her mysteries.. all of it was
    solved. it was now only that

    I had become Visible to her........

  5. Hashim, it was so amazing to read this!!!!!i got goosebumps while reading....

  6. Hello
    I think this seems really very good photographs.Its really very interesting to read this post.I like it.Thank you very much for sharing this with us.You have done a good job.

    vitamine c

  7. I like your article as you described it very beautifully. Keep posting such a way as I can keep visiting this blog very often. Thanks for this great post here.

  8. Here we are here to look for information that can make us gain insight. thank you for this good article . cara menggugurkan kandungan