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Shooting frames in transit

Chirodeep Chaudhuri’s photo exhibit captures his fellow passengers on Mumbai locals, reports Shweta Mehta.

art and culture Updated: Apr 15, 2012 14:22 IST
Shweta Mehta
Shweta Mehta
Hindustan Times
The Commuters,Chirodeep Chaudhuri,Sharada Dwivedi

Chirodeep Chaudhuri has always been inclined to using unusual methods to do the usual — document Mumbai in pictures. He’s worked with the late historian Sharada Dwivedi and architect Rahul Mehrotra, shot 51 clock towers across the city, captured Western waterfronts and even done a series on lewd graffiti in trains to show women’s discomfort in public.

His latest show, titled The Commuters, captures his fellow passengers on Mumbai locals, featuring a collection of over 750 photographs taken over a year, self-curated to create a book and the exhibit itself.

“The theme is a by-product of being bored during my daily commute of an hour, from Thane to CST. I’d been trying to work with the format of mug shots for a while. At the same time, I also wanted to do a portrait of Mumbai’s working class, which I realised was all around me in that compartment. After that, it was a matter of putting an aesthetic framework to it,” says Chirodeep.

For him, the framework included working with vertical frames to eliminate other people, black-and-white to “be homogenous, eliminate distractions of colour and create monotony to show that each is like the other, but with little differences,” using only three kinds of frames — around the pocket, until the shirt’s third button and waist-up, and nitty-gritties like the way their head is tilted, whether they are playing with their phones etc. Most important, he’d only photograph the person right in front of him, even if the one by his side had a more “interesting” face.

The photographer says, “Over time, I got very familiar with the lighting at each time of the day, so much so that if I boarded a train at a particular hour from a particular platform, I would know what kind of light to expect.” And since he didn’t want “smiling passport-sized photos” of the commuters, he’d pretend to fiddle with his camera, although never really attempting to conceal it.

Next, Chirodeep wants to develop ideas outside of Mumbai, maybe in Kolkata, where he is originally from. He explains, “This is the city I’ve grown up in and understand. It’s become a bit of a blind spot for me. Travelling will present me with newer challenges.”

First Published: Apr 15, 2012 14:20 IST