I don't shoot "exotic" India. I leave that to others. My challenge is to find the extraordinary in the ordinary.
Since moving to India and becoming a photographer, I've grown accustom to helpful suggestions about where I should visit in India to shoot fantastic images. What most people don't realize about me is that I'd rather focus on my own turf, here in Mumbai, when I'm not travelling for holiday or for work.
I touched on this topic a little bit already in my previous blog, "Why Street Photographers Should Take Pride In Their Turf".
But I want to make a more personal plea and explain to well-meaning friends, family, and strangers alike - why their suggestions fall on deaf ears.
I don't shoot religious celebrations, cultural events, and India travel package itineraries
I discovered early on that visually and photographically speaking, things like this bore me to tears. For me, groups of people clustered together, however beautifully attired and performing whatever spectacular things, doesn't inspire me to push the shutter button. This isn't an India-centric non-preference, it goes for the rest of the world too. That's not to say I don't appreciate these things. To the contrary, I'm usually curious and open to visiting culturally significant events. But not strictly as a photographer.
"Exotic India" has been done to death. I leave it to others to keep up the tradition of shooting NatGeo-styled images of holy men and snake charmers. I feel it's important to state for the record that I don't hold these kind of photographers in contempt or look down on them. Whatever floats your boat. But my boat's captain has no interest in sailing the same waterways. I've no interest in visiting Mathura to shoot the famous scenes of Holi there. I don't feel particularly moved to photograph along the banks of the Ganges in Varanasi to photograph the iconic scenes of yesteryear - although I love exploring the lanes of this city close to the famous promenade. In a nutshell, I don't want to explore India itineraries that your travel agent would sell you.
I want to make my own itineraries, in my own backyard.
My challenge as a photographer living in the megacity of Mumbai
Mumbai holds 18+ million people. I've no shortage of subjects. As a street photography acolyte, why would I feel compelled to explore other cities and landscapes of India when I haven't divined all the extraordinary from Mumbai?
My challenge is to find the extraordinary. Part of my job, not only as a passionate photographer but as a professional, is to create imagery which is both compelling and commercial (although I'll settle for compelling for my personal work).
My belief is this: Mumbai is the best city in the world for street photography. Since I hold this belief, however far-fetched anyone might think of such a statement, it should be clear that I'm attempting to prove it by way of my photography.
Naturally, it should go without saying that going out of my way and investing time and money to photograph other locales in India and beyond for the sake of curiousity, at this current phase in my life, feels almost pointless. I need to photograph Mumbai with the misguided passion of a terrorist, with the patience and clarity of a sniper. For as long as I'm a resident of Mumbai.