At the Ganga Sagar Mela in West Bengal, a young boy uses magnets to collect coins thrown by devotees into the ocean. Agra’s Taj Mahal in 1942 is covered in scaffolding to protect it against air attacks by bombers. A village in Nagaland straddles the international border between India and Burma.
Move aside, archives and museums. India’s history and culture can now be found in a new repository — on Instagram.
“Instagram is a powerful medium to disseminate information and opinion, without the filter of a media house or an agenda,” says Prashanth Vishwanathan, 33, a freelance photographer based in Delhi. Vishwanathan regularly shares snapshots from his journeys across India’s hinterland. “The way people consume photos these days is changing. Now, your followers want to know the stories behind the pictures.”
Explore the republic of India through the eyes of photographers, photojournalists and travel writers who are always on the lookout for untold stories. And while you’re at it, create your own.
“I’ve always been fascinated by the other side of India, unknown gems that don’t find their way into most travel plans,” says Neelima Vallangi, 30, a travel writer and photographer.
Vallangi has travelled across the country and each of her experiences is documented on her Instagram account, sometimes as part of a series. Her current series is called #30DaysofAnotherIndia, and profiles offbeat spots — you’ll find the painted havelis of Shekhawati, Rajasthan sharing space with the dolmens or ancient burial chambers of Marayoor, Kerala, and the Siju Cave (bat caves) in Garo Hills, Meghalaya.
“I have learned about a lot of new places through her pictures. She showcases them
so beautifully that the photos make you want to visit those places and have that experience,” says Swati Saxena, 27, a travel blogger and social media strategist based in Delhi.
USP: Documents unknown places in India, supporting each image with stories and facts.
Chandan Khanna has mastered the art of taking a photo using a camera in his right hand and his iPhone in the left. “I would end up missing a good shot because I was too busy focusing on my
assignment. This way, I can shoot professional and personal projects simultaneously,” says the 27-year-old AFP photojournalist based in Delhi.
Khanna’s images focus on capturing India’s culture and the vibrancy of its streets. For example, a shot shows an Indian artist dressed as Hindu goddess Kali, another displays a Muslim family breaking their fast, a third showcases Indian linesmen fixing telephone cables.
USP: Khanna focuses on evocative portraits and showcasing quirky behind-the-scenes details of daily life. Instagram featured him as a suggested user in 2013.
Independent photojournalist Chirag Wakaskar, 35, started the account over a year ago. “I wanted it to be a chronicle of the city — what makes it buzz and how residents make it their home,” he says. Among its featured images are those from tourists and politicians such as Uddhav Thackeray.
“Their photos present a different take on everyday scenes, such as morning walkers or street food” says Jaspreet Kaur, 28, a social media marketer.
USP: A crowdsourced account that features the city’s residents, celebrations, architecture. They also highlight issues such as birds injured during Makar Sankranti or safety during Ganpati Visarjan.
“I’ve always wanted to do something for photographers,” says Delhi-based social entrepreneur Amol Goel, 27, who started curating India Pictures (IP) two years ago. IP receives over 10,000 images a day, of which Goel and his team choose 10 or 20, based on the quality, subject and caption.
Featured images include one of a community fishing event during Bhogali Bihu celebrations in Panbari; a landscape shot of Fateh Burj in Landran, Punjab; and a portrait of a member of the Nihang (armed Sikh order) community.
IP has also conducted over 100 photo walks and offline meets, and promote equipment exchange.
Celebrated photographer Raghu Rai serves as a mentor for the account.
“IP highlights the artist behind every image and introduces you to upcoming talent,” says Yash Rane, 27, a chef and photographer based in Mumbai, whose works have been featured on the account.
USP: They curate stunning images of India that tell a story. Featured by CNN US as one of top 8 Indian Instagram accounts to follow, they regularly conduct photowalks and insta-meets, and help photographers get assignments.
The Twitter handle @IndiaHistoryPic was created in Jan 2014, by a creator who wishes to remain anonymous. Images highlighting India’s history and politics and joint heritage with Pakistan are taken from online archives, and dates and references checked before posting.
So, an image from 1947 shows the Indian Army evacuating refugees at Srinagar airport; another 1947 image shows the partition of Indian and Pakistani books at Calcutta National Library.
USP: Images dating back to the 1800s showing India’s fight for Independence, and details of origins of monuments.
Vishwanathan wants his photos to be a serious commentary on life. “I try and question things through images. So in my captions, I include an opinion piece on the place, person or issue,” he says.
For instance, an image of a family enjoying a picnic at India Gate is accompanied by a caption about the family system falling apart; the caption with a picture of a tightrope walker in Pushkar hopes the young girl gets a chance at a a formal education.
“With a photojournalism background, his posts always leave you with more than an image to look at. Besides, his frames are amazing,” says Anurag Banerjee, 24, a freelance photographer based in Mumbai.
USP: He shares stories of people in rural India, with insightful captions. Instagram featured an image of his of a young underage girl working in a cotton field, and his series on Diwali.