Tag Archives: street photography

The Road to Darjeeling

After a few interesting weeks in Kolkata I’ve been heading slowly north towards the mountain city of Darjeeling. Though the travel itself was gruellingly slow and uncomfortable, I was able to spend a few days in the small towns of Rampur Hat and Tarapith. While Tarapith is famous as a spot for ceremonial cremations, Rampur Hat is famous for nothing. Since virtually no tourists stay in Rampur Hat for any length of time I found that the locals were extremely welcoming and curious about me – a refreshing change from the big-city indifference of Kolkata.

Here are a few selected images from the two days in these small towns. Newer work from Darjeeling to follow.

A group of men warm themselves around a fire at sunrise. Temperatures in the north of West Bengal regualrly drop below freezing in the winter.

A group of men warm themselves around a fire at sunrise. Temperatures in the north of West Bengal regualrly drop below freezing in the winter.

A woman and her baby wait for their morning chai to be ready.

A woman and her baby wait for their morning chai to be ready.

A crow hops between ledges in a residential area of Rampur Hat.

A crow hops between ledges in a residential area of Rampur Hat.

Straw figures waiting to be covered in clay in a small artists workshop.

Straw figures waiting to be covered in clay in a small artists workshop.

A group of men in blue lungis take a break after lunch on the streets of Rampur Hat.

A group of men in blue lungis take a break after lunch on the streets of Rampur Hat.

The local representative of the National political party sits in his small office in Tarapith.

The local representative of the National political party sits in his small office in Tarapith.

An old woman sits inside a Hindu shrine in Tarapith, chanting prayers for those who make donations.

An old woman sits inside a Hindu shrine in Tarapith, chanting prayers for those who make donations.

 

 

 

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Kolkata: City of Joy

A woman walks down an alley to her home.

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.

The residential side streets between New Market and Old Town.

Movie posters coat the walls in the east of Old Town.

Movie posters coat the walls in the east of Old Town.

 

A Muslim girl stands in the entranceway to a small community church. Kolkata is home to a diverse cultural and religious population.

A Muslim girl stands in the entranceway to a small community church. Kolkata is home to a diverse cultural and religious population.

Kolkata's government was communist until very recently and support for the party can be seen painted on many walls around the city.

Kolkata’s government was communist until very recently and support for the party can be seen painted on many walls around the city.

A Sadhu man, or Baba, smokes a cigarette in his small tent. Sadhus are traveling monks and hundreds of them arrive in Kolkata ahead of a religious festival.

A Sadhu man, or Baba, smokes a cigarette in his small tent. Sadhus are traveling monks and hundreds of them arrive in Kolkata ahead of a religious festival.

A semi-wild horse trims the grass near the Eden Gardens cricket ground. Kolkata has some of the biggest park areas of any city in India.

A semi-wild horse trims the grass near the Eden Gardens cricket ground. Kolkata has some of the biggest park areas of any city in India.

A man takes a break from his job shovelling coal.

A man takes a break from his job shovelling coal.

 

An electrical business closes every Sunday. Much of the city uses Sunday as a day of rest.

An electrical business closes every Sunday. Much of the city uses Sunday as a day of rest.

A food vendor fires his charcoal stove in the early evening ahead of the rush hour diners. Street food is ubiquitous in the city.

A food vendor fires his charcoal stove in the early evening ahead of the rush hour diners. Street food is ubiquitous in the city.

A batsmen approaches the wickets during an afternoon practice. These players are members of club teams and many aspire to play at the state or national level.

A batsmen approaches the wickets during an afternoon practice. These players are members of club teams and many aspire to play at the state or national level.

 

Police patrol the streets on New Years Eve, 2012. Kolkata has been rated the safest major city in India.

Police patrol the streets on New Years Eve, 2012. Kolkata has been rated the safest major city in India.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Blog, India Also tagged , , , , , , |

Businessman at 4am

As I get ready to leave South Korea after two years, this image remains one of my favourites. Truly this country has been very accommodating to me, and the people are almost always friendly and go out of their way to be helpful when they can. While getting stared at openly in public can be somewhat draining, after six-odd years of nearly constant travel this is pretty much the norm. Overall I am extremely grateful to this country and the people in it – I can’t honestly say that my home country of Canada would be as welcoming to them should they choose to emigrate.

The reason this image sticks with me is for slightly less positive reasons, however. Over the last few years one fact that has become clear to me is that Korea would not be a fun place to try and make a career. Working hours are excessively long for the typical employee, and 12-14 hour days are not uncommon. Overtime is ubiquitous and mostly unpaid. Total dedication to one’s company is expected, sometimes at great personal sacrifice. Exhausted workers will often need an entire weekend of sleeping to recover from the rigors of the workweek.

This was taken at around 4 am in southwestern Seoul in an area designated as a digital business zone; more than 100 000 workers are estimated to pass through the local subway station. Mandatory nights of heavy drinking are part of Korean office culture, further compounding the lack of sleep. This man standing alone in front of a parking garage will forever remind me of the Korean daily grind, and how lucky I am to not be a part of it. Upon looking at this picture a Korean friend of mine said simply “life is tired”.

To those “salarymen” who work these hellish hours for 30+ years, I both salute you and feel for you. It may not be a perfect society, but in many of the important ways it is better than most. So long Korea, and thanks for all the great memories.

I’ll be flying off to Dahaka, Bangladesh next week to start an intensive 10-day workshop with Zoriah Miller, one of my favourite photojournalists, as well as work on a few personal projects in the area. From there I’ll be heading to the Philippines for some work on poverty and the environment, and perhaps even some precious time on the beach. I’m looking forward to getting back on the road and I’ll make posts whenever possible.

Posted in Blog, South Korea Also tagged , |

Walking Past Brothels in Seoul

I was out in the low income neighbourhood of South Guro, in the southwestern part of Seoul, looking at the feasibility of a story on the immigrant sex workers who are prevalent in the area. As I waited outside the steel shutters of one of the numerous small brothels, this woman walked by and it seemed like a great burst of happiness in a dreary environment. Sometimes its nicer not to find what you’re looking for.

a woman walks past a small brothel, which is shuttered during the daytime.

Posted in Blog, South Korea Also tagged , , |

Gasan Chinatown

While I work on posting some of the interviews I did with North Korean defectors, here are a few photos from the small Chinatown near Gasan, Seoul.

An elderly woman walks slowly past a small manufacturing business in Gasan's small Chinatown

This very friendly man was thrilled when I gave him my camera to play with for a few minutes.

Running full speed down a hill seems like a great way to spend Sunday afternoon.

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Scrutiny

a business man walks under a massive bilboard in Gasan, an old industrial neighbourhood

Gasan is a traditional working class neighbourhood in the Southwest of Seoul. Home to a large number of immigrants, Gasan’s gritty industrial past is evident despite rebranding efforts of local government.

This downtrodden looking business man caught my eye as he headed home, hunched and tired looking under the scrutiny of the fashion billboard.

 

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Urban Flowers in Seoul

Luc-Forsyth-Seoul-south-korea-photojournalism-street-photography

A young man runs past a flowery billboard in Hongdae

I’ve started taking a lot of pictures in Seoul’s side streets to try and represent the constant movement of people through this massive city. The series isn’t so much about people, but rather the city itself and the way people flow through it.

I love this image because it was taken in one of Seoul’s busiest neighbourhoods. The flowered billboard, blue sky, and steep hill give an impression of a natural environment which is infamously absent in this super-city.

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Street Photography: Daerim Station

Daerim station, on the number 2 subway line, or “The Green Line”, is an immigrant neighbourhood with a large Chinese population. The mix of cultures and the gritty side streets make for interesting images. Seoul is a city of alleys, and they are constantly in motion – Daerim is no exception.

Walking path, Daerim Station, Seoul

in a city with extremely high urban density, walking paths are often located beneath overpasses

Street photography near Daerim Station, Seoul, South korea

new buildings often pop up overnight, so construction is typically ignored

street photography - Daerim Station, Seoul, South Korea

gritty remnants of an industrial past

street photography - Daerim Station, Seoul, South Korea

Christianity flourishes in Korea. Some reports indicate over 25% of the population is actively faithful.The Catholic church has enjoyed a 70% growth rate in the last 10 years.

street photography - Daerim Station, Seoul, South Korea

a man grinds down metal parts for resale

street photography - Daerim Station, Seoul, South Korea

 

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Inner Circle: Commuting on Seoul’s “Green Line”

At over 60km, the number 2 Seoul subway line (a.k.a. “the green line” or “circle line”), is the longest circular metro track in the world. Started in the late 1970’s, the line now has 52 stations and a mind boggling quantity of human traffic – roughly 2 million passengers daily, according to the city’s 2010 published statistics.

Many Korean’s will spend hours per day in Seoul’s subways, and I think that these prolonged periods of being trapped in transit have partially fueled the country’s obsession with small electronic gadgets.

Korea is the epicenter of the smartphone/tablet revolution. It is not uncommon to see a 7 year old kindergarten student with a touch screen cell phone fastened around their necks as they walk to school, and this trend solidifies with age. According to some studies, by the time they reach highschool, the average Korean youth will be sending more than 100 text messages per day. One friend of mine was given a free trip overseas for being crowned the fastest texter in his university.

Now that phones are also wired to the internet (South Korea boasts the fastest internet connections in the world and the most complete wifi network of any country), they have become more like extensions of their bodies rather than useful communication tools.

My views on technological addiction aside, I have spent innumerable hours on Seoul’s subways myself, most of them on the Green Line (in fact, to get these photos I did three full laps which totals 180km and about 4 hours). While the cars are often packed and nightmarish, I instead wanted to show just a few frozen moments, representative of these lives in commute.

passengers rush to board in the hopes of finding a seat.


passengers hurry to get any available seats


a young man watches TV, while an older man slumps forward asleep


an older man reclines in the seats reserved for seniors and the disabled.


a soldier watches the electronic subway map



few people can manage to find enough personal space to read


children are the privileged who manage to find excitement on the subways


young women talk and send messages continuously from the time they board.


many office workers use their commuting time to get much needed sleep


a young boy watches TV on his phone


three seniors share the reserved section


sleeping or using an electronic device - the staples of Seoul commuting.

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