A LITTLE HISTORY
To begin with, I just wish to say that I have never been a photographer. I have never called myself a photographer. Yet, somebody sees a camera on you, and instantly takes you for the brooding, obsessed with life big-shot photographer roaming the streets. On some days I choose to go with it. Let them think I’m a photographer. It makes things easier.
Last year, my mother had gifted me a camera. A Canon 800D that she thought would push me to be more creative. She passed away a few months after. After that, I put off touching the camera for the longest time. It would only remind me of her. Even worse, the last few pictures I took were those of her. After several months of delaying my gratitude for my mother, I decided to photograph with it again, and little did I know about how liberating it would be. It was when stepping out to photograph, I experienced what they call a ‘flow’. The chattering in my mind would finally die down, and I would only be focused on the job at hand. It turned into a habit. Now, like I mentioned, I’m no photographer, but I’m drawn to photography like it’s the last worthwhile thing here on earth. And it’s my hope that my pictures improve and maybe, someday, I could end up calling myself one.
ONTO THE ASSIGNMENT
This excursion was impromptu, to be honest. I recently purchased a 24mm with a f/2.8 aperture on it and I was itching to try it out. I also use a 50mm 1.8 (which I absolutely love), but I realized that my pictures weren’t doing it. The portraits looked real nice, but somewhere I wouldn’t be happy with the work I was able to put out. I missed having a little background, a bit of scenery to go with my subjects (I shoot portraits as of now).
Our editor and chief, the magnetic Gorky M suggested that I take the time to shoot black and white. We do take the classic B&W for granted - it is an art-form in itself. And any person who can understand the way light affects the grays, the various blacks and whites, has the power to milk emotion. So I did as he suggested, and it’s true - a new world opens up to you. A nostalgic one, filled with reverence for all things little and large, where faces change and the eyes say a lot more. It’s like a spell being cast on the world, a beautiful lapse of time that was missing. It’s like hitting pause and realizing the magic of breath.
It was completely random, me stepping out one fine day to photograph. I wouldn’t say that I have covered all of South Mumbai (which they say is the real Mumbai) but I am tired of photographing there. At least for now. So this fine day, I took the tube to a central suburb called Ghatkopar.
Ghatkopar is like any suburb of Mumbai, cluttered and populated. There’s no place to walk here, and if there were - there’d be a shop there. The sidewalks cater to hawkers and serve as extra spaces for shop owners in front of them. It’s tough to pick out a moment here, there’s just too much chaos. An auto rickshaw stand is stationed right next to the bus stop, people are eating, smoking, buying clothes - all at once. So I tried to do what I think I do best, take pictures of people.
My dependence on caffeine plays a vital part in this second picture. As the day was winding down, my morale too felt like calling it quits. Suddenly, lethargy crept into my body and I had the impulse to go grab a nice cup of chai. And here’s the amazing thing about Mumbai, or India, that there’s a tea stall somewhere nearby. There’s millions of us feeling lethargic throughout the day, and chai is able to keep our spirits high. As I walked into a grimy alley, I could smell a fresh batch of tea being concocted, with a hint of lemongrass.
At the tea stall, I saw two security guards - simple teetotalling men, taking a break from their duties to sip a cup of tea.
There’s something about uniforms that just makes look people great. When I saw these two gentlemen, I had to ask one of them for a picture. Once he had agreed, I decided to be a bit more bold and ask him to hold up his walkie.
While we’re still on the subject of learning, one thing continues to move me. It’s how human the art form of photography is. It’s a conversation starter like no other. You meet all kinds of people. You hear stories that have the power to change you and shape you.
As an effort to shoot with more confidence, I have begun talking to people who I take pictures of. It really adds to my day and it also becomes the reason for doing this so often.
I had plenty of keepers (good photographs) from this random outing. These made it to the eventual cut. The 800D is a decent camera. It shoots quickly, the menu is easy to understand and has many options for lenses. With a 24mm 2.8 pancake lens, I was invisible. At least I felt invisible. Maybe, I’m getting better at this.
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Rishabh Udgata is a writer and contributor at GMax Studios. He goes by @oodgata on Instagram.