The City of Joy has been many things, but easily photographed is not one of them.
A huge sprawling metropolis, the former British colonial capital always seemed like an impossibly foreign place to me when I was younger. Hearing the name Calcutta on a news report or reading it in a book was always synonymous with poverty and underdevelopment in my mind. Growing up in small town Canada, Calcutta (now Kolkata) was the land of Mother Theresa and sweatshops, definitely not a place I ever thought I’d be. I suppose that’s why I chose it as my first stop in India, as a way to dispel some of my preconceptions – and I’m glad I did.
It can be a difficult city to work in; the people are busy in a big-city sort of way and don’t have the time or the patience for having their picture taken. In some cases there is open hostility in the eyes of people when they see me carrying a camera. I have been physically shooed away by irritated housewives on several occasions while lingering around an interesting location. This can be extremely frustrating (as I use quite a wide angle lens, I have to get so close that I generally require some level of acceptance from people), but it’s also understandable. I’d be equally discourteous to someone standing outside my house taking photos of me. India has to be one of the most photographed countries in the world, so it shouldn’t be surprising that people get fed up with it. I would.
But it’s an easy place to like, and I’m not quite sure why. There is something indefinable about its energy and mood. The old British architecture is decaying in a wonderfully colourful way and it makes for a great backdrop to this city of millions. It is the principle education center of Eastern India and has produced some of the countries most famous academics. It hasn’t been as modernized as many of India’s major cities. For whatever reason, Kolkata is just an interesting place to be.
Despite my growing fondness of the city, I’ve been here for the best part of three weeks and haven’t yet found a story or subject that has grabbed my attention. Though the street photography has been great, I’ve decided to head north towards the border regions of Assam and Nagaland to see if I can get inspired.
These images are a selection from the past few weeks of wandering through the city on foot.