I’ve always believed that it’s the people that make a place. Their character, eccentricities, and attitude add a whole new dimension to the aura that then reflects on those visiting an area.
But my nature is such that I tend to think ten times before approaching anyone. Whether it is to talk or take a photograph, I’m typically hesitant. As a result of which I’ve missed out on many wonderful opportunities to interact with locals.
I’m changing though. My interest in street photography, and especially profiles, has helped a lot. I now make an effort to talk to random people that I cross paths with, while travelling. Sometimes it’s to ask permission to take a photo, while at others, it’s small talk, about them or the place we are in.
Street-photography has also made me realise that while people add to the charm of a region, stray dogs and cats also make for excellent models. You just have to find them when they are in the right mood.
I have been lucky enough to encounter some stunning stays during my photo-walks, and one of my favourites is a stray dog that modelled like a professional when I was at Humayun’s Tomb.
Lodi Art District, one of my favourite places in all of Delhi, is packed with interesting people from all walks of life. Although I’ve been to Lodi Colony quite a few times, on two occasions I enjoyed pre-planned photo walks in the area. It was during this time that I encountered and interacted with some locals.
Children playing on the roads, teenagers dancing, and an old man basking in the sun, it is a melange of colourful personalities that add a bit of fun to discovering the spectacular street-art scene of the area. The fact that the street art makes for an ideal background for random profiles, as colourful as the very people that inhabit or visit the area, is the quintessential cherry on top.
A young man basks in the sun. I call him young because there was a child-like sparkle in his eyes, and a beautiful smile on his lips when I took his photos. He couldn’t move much, but still posed, happy, and also curious as to why would I take an interest in him. Unfortunately, I couldn’t strike up much of a conversation due to language, understanding, and hearing issues. Thinking about him, sitting casually on a charpai in front of a large and bright mural, does make my heart warm up.
The fruit seller sat on his stool, next to his fruit cart, in an almost authoritarian stance. He didn’t flinch a muscle as some of us took his photos. His demeanour didn’t change. Not even a hint of a smile crept up on his face. And yet, I think on the inside he enjoyed being photographed.
Amma, an aged lady, made tea and the most delicious bread omelettes for us. The lines on her face were intense and spoke on a life that must have seen a fair share of ups and downs. However, she didn’t want her picture taken. Chatty and equally curious about our cameras, Amma informed that she’s never had her photograph taken, and doesn’t want to change that now. This made me sad. Still, I respected her religious and personal beliefs and didn’t take any photos of her face. But I did go ahead and take pictures of everything around her, including a video of Amma making the bread omelette.
I remember him telling me that his brother’s name is Taufiq, but the boy’s name slips my mind now. Jumpy, as most children his age are, he somehow sat still while cutting green chillies on this Sunday morning, helping his Nani (maternal grandmother aka Amma from above) with odds jobs at the street-food stand. Watching us take photos of the food stall, he went ahead and placed two toy motorbikes next to the teacups, to make the scene a little more interesting.
I came across the Bohemians Group as they took one take after another for their YouTube channel. A group of young and aspiring boys, I must applaud their confidence, for I could never dance like them on public streets. In fact, I can’t dance like them, period. Now sometimes, the young Tik Tok and Instagram generation can be full of attitude, but these boys were humble, equally interested in our photography, and happy to have a quick chat.
The Biker Dudes. Sometimes, you come across people in a passing moment, a moments that ends with very little interaction. We had a quick chat with the biker dudes that ended with “I’ll follow you on Instagram.” A few minutes later, they returned, possibly having forgotten the names, and took proper note of our Instagram handles. And that was it.
Occasionally, it is hard to understand what goes through the mind of the people we encounter. This man, on the right side of the photo, sat in that very position, talking to someone on the phone while we took pictures around him. He was there in our frame the whole time, maybe thinking that I would ask him to move. Little did he know that I was hoping he stays, for street-photography is better when people are in it.
And then there are the strays. Maybe it was a little early, or perhaps because most of them felt their bed-fur was not the look they wanted to be splashed all over Instagram, but barring one, none of the strays was ready to pose for me. Oh well, the life of an amateur photographer is never that simple.
Those wanting to explore more, the street-art scene in New Delhi is quite vibrant. From painting the walls of flyovers and the dividers between roads to the street art of Mangar village, there’s usually something interesting, waiting to be found, around the corner.
Interesting captures. Let me confess I was hesitant in clicking pictures of people on the street till a year or two ago. All that has changed now though. With practice, I have improved over time. I have clicked tons of people pictures. A tip here – Being fluent in local language or dialect helps you cut the gap and build rapport. You are doing great, Raghav. Keep going!
Ticker Eats The World
Thank you, and I was the same. Typically I’ve been clicking people in the “Hindi” speaking regions so that’s been easy. I do agree, knowing the local dialect helps, even it’s basic enough to just get the message across. Otherwise, I use hand gestures and a smile often works wonders.
Smile always works in most situations, universally! Keep clicking and sharing, Raghav!
I had been in this area a few years ago, but don’t remember noticing any of this arty stuff. Maybe times have changed and I need to redo the visit. Thanks for the heads up! Sometimes great stuff lies right in front of you and you miss it. Like in my case:)
Ticker Eats The World
Yes, it’s really come up nicely. Plus, they did a whole new bunch of murals this March.
Great photos, you have really captured the Lodi Art district well. The fruit seller’s expression made me smile, even if he did not smile. Street dogs and cats are always photographic – as you say you have to get them in the right mood.
I’d love to know what the ‘young man’ was thinking when you took an interest in photographing him. I agree that street-photography is better when people are in it. They bring both life and mystery to the photo.
I spent a year living in Delhi and this was one of my favorite neighborhoods and a place I used to spend a lot of time. Hence, I enjoyed reading every line of this article. You brought back some great memories from my time in Delhi. Thank you for sharing
Love all your pictures! You can bring the people’s emotional in each and every shot. I agree that street-photography are better when there are people in it, although dogs and cats are excellent models, too.
These portraits look straight from some high-end travel magazine. I never knew Delhi has such amazing street art. In fact, this is the first time that I am reading about Lodi art district, although I have read so many blogs about Delhi before. The dog is a superstar!
I recently visited New Delhi after some years and realized how much the cityscape has changed. I loved the addition of wall art on the streets. I like how you weave people stories in your narration. Street Photography has been one of my biggest passions too. I need to start clicking some street shots again.
You’ve taken beautiful photos! I love the personal touch you’ve added to this post by telling us about the beautiful people you met. So often travelers don’t take the time to meet the people, but you did an amazing job of capturing the true reality of this art district by telling their stories.
I love your photos so much. Do you typically approach these people and ask right away if you can take their photos? Or do you try to strike up a conversation with them first and then ask if you can take their photo? I’ve always wondered what’s the best way to go about this exchange!
Such great stories of the people you meet. Travel is always pleasurable when you take the time to interact with the people of the places you explore.
Thanks for sharing Lodi artistic district as I am an artist and love street art a lot. Therefore visiting this place and taking natural photos as suggested by you must a unique experience to me. I liked the photo of a man talking on mobile with a very colorful painted wall behind him. Even you took a black and white shot of him which gives a unique perspective. Sometimes interacting with locals is very interesting and to capture their natural movements is also a beautiful thing to do.
I love street art. The more colourful the better. We some great ones here in San Francisco too that I like to go see. These photos are awesome. And it is really great that you added some local point of view on them, it gives them life. I had never heard of this district before but it was very interesting to read about it.
Meeting people is always so interesting. I loved the way you told the stories of random people you met on the street, especially the biker dudes who came back to note your IG handles! I love the portraits you clicked, capturing the emotions in a perfect way.
Very evocative photos! I was always interested in street photography, but (like you) I am shy and don’t dare to approach strangers. In countries like India is probably easier to convince people to allow you to take their picture, but in America or in Europe it takes a lot skill and effort. As such, I end up by focusing on landscape photography, and only dare photograph people if I have a telephoto lens.
Every trip is made unique because of the people we meet. Thank you for sharing your experience with Delhi. It is very interesting and inspiring.