From the archives
Streetlife India 1986 -
Dehli, Agra, Amber, Jaipur.
My first morning in Dehli. Out into brilliant sunshine and the crowded streets. Hordes of bicycles, scooters, three-wheel taxis, cars, buses and trucks hurtling around cows, goats, pigs and ox-drawn carts. The noise is tremendous. Over the sound of traffic horns are blown continuously, bicycle bells ring, shouts and cries call out. Men squat over gullies at the back of rough pavements, robes raised, backs to someone’s wall. Women in brightly coloured clothing, some veiled, seem not to notice. Street dwellers spread their washing out on grass verges and bushes to dry. Others lie rolled up in a blanket.
The large birds gliding silently overhead are vultures.
Into the crowded narrow streets of Old Dehli. No sign of tourists here. One whole street has open fronted shops selling cloth, another herbs and spices, another hand-made ironmongery and so on. Into the mix add butchers, bakers, cafes, take-aways, fruit and vegetable sellers, street barbers and shoe repairers, plus shoppers, loiterers and beggars. In the main market, stalls sell chickens, killed on the spot, and freshly gutted fish cooled with endless buckets of crushed ice. Unbearable heat and smell under these canvas covered stalls, yet whole families, including children, work and seem to live here every day.
Naturally I’ve been taking photographs. I’m using colour slide film. Some people don’t mind and smile at the camera, others do, and once threw water at my back, shouting words I don’t understand, whilst I photographed a sleeping street barber. I soon dry out in the hot sunshine.
Some technical problems with this intense light. Film, particularly slide, cannot cope with these extremes of light and shade. Detail in one or the other can be lost. Open shade is better, less contrast. Most interiors are dark but flash is unnatural and its fall off too rapid, resulting in over-bright foregrounds and overly dark backgrounds. Not for me here.
Photos on Ektachrome 200 and Kodachrome 64. Where was digital photography when I needed it? Years away yet!
However, here it is now, in my scanner and post-production software. I’ve been able to improve the shadow/highlight detail in many of the slides. Some information was there, it just needed some encouragement to bring it out, plus of course, ‘it’s the way I take ‘em’.