A window can offer a glimpse of the lives within. You can understand people’s sartorial choices from the clothes hanging on the grill; and if the window acts as a storage space for tricycles or cylinders, you can safely assume a space crunch. Photographer Parhad Goghavala is familiar with this stream of thought. After all, he has spent eight years shooting stunning windows across the city. “Ironically, some of the most dilapidated structures can have the most beautiful windows,” says the 42-year-old photographer, as he shows us images at his Breach Candy studio.
Dressed in a polka-dotted navy blue shirt and light blue jeans, the fashion and fine art photographer recounts how his obsession with windows started in 2008. He was running errands for his father when he spotted a window at the Ahmadi Building near Opera House. The building looked time-worn, but it was a broken window patched up with bright green and blue plastic sheets that caught his eye.
“There was this beautiful old window in the middle of so much ghich-pich (chaos). The contrast of the plastic sheets with the old building mesmerised me. I returned to the spot and clicked it. That window led me to search for other interesting ones,” says Goghavala.
A selection of 30 images from his collection will now be on display. Titled Arresting Developments, it is a reference to the 1988 American alternative hip-hop band, Arrested Development (the 2003 TV series is also inspired by the same band).
Most windows that feature in the collection are located in the older stretches of the city: Opera House, Crawford Market, lanes leading towards Mohammad Ali Road, and Byculla. The buildings are colonial structures, built between 1917 to 1930. “Many of these buildings have elegant façades which the newer buildings don’t; the pictures are almost naturally framed by the façade,” he says, adding, “The contrast of modern-day reality with old-world, crumbling structures is poetic.”
One of Goghavala’s favourite images shows a boy plucking a leaf from the plants growing out of a pipe adjoining the window. The funniest, he says, is the shot of an elegant Romanesque window with a lone underwear hanging outside. Goghavala has chosen to not caption the images, leaving it to the viewer to figure out a backstory. “As I enlarged the photos, I spotted details that I’d missed out on while shooting. There is a story going on; you can sense something happening. As you go closer, you see more and more.”
For Goghavala, the biggest challenge was to find the right windows. “I had to find an interesting window and keep going back till something entertaining was happening there,” he says. Another challenge was to be on site at the right time: mostly morning or evening when the sunlight hits the façade sideways. “You can see the textures and colours because the sunlight is falling right on the structure,” he explains.
Interestingly, the images in the exhibition are largely untouched, apart from colour enhancements and clarity adjustments. “I have retained the grime. The images are very real; nothing has been altered,” he says.
While he wished to be discreet, shooting with a long lens meant he was easily spotted, and curious crowds would gather around him. He was also shooed away a couple of times. Worse, he would find his subjects posing — something that would spoil the candid nature of the images. “It was voyeuristic because I was being nosey and looking at other people’s houses from outside. But then, the things you see when you stand around and watch…” he laughs and trails off.
In a city that is rapidly changing, Goghavala is aware that the clock is ticking for the older structures. “The government is planning to replace them. But there is no way you are going to take pictures of a skyscraper window and put it on display. The new constructions lack character; there is no soul,” he says.
Know the artist
Parhad Goghavala studied at Cathedral and John Connon School, where photography was an extra subject. In 1996, he studied for a degree in industrial design at Brunel University, London. He also did art and photography courses at Central Saint Martins, London and at the Shari Academy of Professional Photography in Mumbai. Next up, he is planning to work on a calendar of 12 yesteryear, famous faces in the fashion world.
What: Arresting Developments is on display from January 31 to February 20
Where: Gallery 7, G3 ground floor, Oricon House, 12/14 Rampart Row, K Dubash Road, Kala Ghoda
Call: 2218 3996