Portraits from Old Delhi

“Dilli ke na kooche thhe, aurake musavir thhe, jo shakl nazar aayi tasveer nazar aayi”  written in Urdu by Mir Taqi Mir, an 18th Century poet.

Delhi’s streets were not alleys but the parchment of a painting, every face that appeared seemed like a masterpiece.

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I love wandering down the galis of Old Delhi, taking candid photographs of people, dogs, shops, buildings. Life, basically. I shoot whatever catches my eye. Yesterday, I had a companion and really valued her perspicacity. While I was engaged with snapping one subject, she would point out another.

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I try to catch the eye of the subject (when it’s a person) and indicate I’d like to take their picture. I might make a motion with my camera, or point to them and raise my eyebrows. I try to make contact. Occasionally, they will object or turn away, and that’s fine. I smile, wave and move on.

 

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Sometimes I do cheat a little. I pretend to be taking a scene behind the real subject. The key then is to keep focussing on the original view after the person has walked on by. And I have been known to use a long lens to take an unsuspecting person’s portrait.

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But I prefer to get up close and personal. I chat away with a few Hindi phrases and use gestures to make conversation. I try to introduce a little humour into the moment as well. A smile goes a long way.

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I like food. I also like taking pictures of people making and selling food on the street. Unfortunately, if I stop for a snack, my fingers get really greasy and make the camera difficult to manipulate.

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I like to try to put people in context and to find some fun in the photograph. This man’s impressive orange beard is mirrored by the unravelled plastic sack opposite.

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This man was wearing a pin-striped jacket while selling offal – brains and tongues, rather bizarrely with a sack of peas.

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This dapper chap was selling nappies and feminine hygiene products.

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Electrifying stuff, Shakespeare. This is a bookseller at the Sunday morning market in Dariya Ganj.

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Young people read their social media messages, not the Bard of Avon.

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I usually oblige when people ask me to take their photographs. Sometimes I can get them to smile and laugh, but usually, they prefer to be pictured with a serious expression.

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