Almost every photo has a common undertone of Mumbai: Karishma Mehta | art and culture | Hindustan Times
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Almost every photo has a common undertone of Mumbai: Karishma Mehta

Breathe in Mumbai, breathe out stories. Karishma Mehta, founder of Humans Of Bombay, opens up about her tryst with the city and its many shades

art and culture Updated: Jul 22, 2016 19:15 IST
Karishma Mehta
Karishma Mehta

Karishma Mehta says that the thrilling part about being a photographer in Mumbai — everyone has a story and almost everyone loves to share.(Aalok Soni/ HT Photo)

Mumbai is a piece of art. Just like a masterpiece that holds true to its colour, depth and open-endedness for the beholder to perceive — this city acts like the perfect canvas for millions.

The best part about Mumbai is that it manages to keep surprising you — a tiny bylane with walls full of art and graffiti, a quaint eatery with delicious street food, or a clustered neighbourhood leading to the vast open sea.

Among the many adventures I have had with Mumbai, I once stumbled upon a little nook in Bandra. I was left pleasantly surprised at how this space was a world in itself. Beautiful houses in bright blues, vibrant Vespas thronging the streets, and street-art adorning almost every other wall. I spent close to five hours in this space, and as I interacted with people, I realised that much like the location, the residents, too, had ‘feel good’ stories to share. That’s the thrilling part about being a photographer in Mumbai — almost everyone has a story and (luckily for me) almost everyone loves to share.

Read: Meet Karishma Mehta, the woman behind Humans of Bombay

We have shot all kinds of portraits — quirky, candid, sombre and toothy, but almost every photograph has one strong common undertone of Mumbai. I don’t know what it is, but seeing that black-and-yellow cab in the background or a blurry sea of people adds to the essence that is so unique to this city. So many times we receive messages, saying, ‘Your photographs strike a chord.’ As a street photographer, I think that’s the crux of it — to hit home, as many times as you can.

Read: An illustrator is adding cute monsters to photos of Mumbai

While chasing that feeling, I have come across all kinds of people — some who run away from the camera, others who are naturals, and some who need to be coaxed to give that ‘one more shot’. In my experience, it has a lot to do with how you approach people. Even in the seemingly too-fast-to-stop city, a smile will go a long way, as will a genuine thirst to learn someone’s story, and share it with the world. This city is to photographers what it is to everyone else — frenetic, chaotic and a little unpredictable.

According to me, it is the amalgamation that makes it Mumbai — the old heritage buildings and the towering skyscrapers, the hustle of the train stations, and the traffic on the streets, the quaint cafés, the bevy of food stalls, the wide lanes and the narrow alleys — it is the mix that makes the whole.

Watch: Behind the scenes: Humans of Bombay

While it is easy to describe, it is as difficult to capture the essence of something so magnanimous. Everything screams to be photographed. I personally check every photo we get tagged in. On so many occasions, I say to myself, “Wow, this captured Mumbai perfectly.” But soon enough, someone else will tag us in another photo, and it’s even better than the last shot. You don’t need a fancy camera or any work experience to get that perfect shot. Sometimes, all it takes is a camera phone, a sight that makes you reach out for it, and the feeling of ‘home’ when you click.