Editor’s note: Pravin Tamang, Intrepid’s General Manager in India, is nothing short of a legend. When he’s not managing the company’s vast array of trips in this spectacular country, he’s working tirelessly towards gender-balancing India’s tour guide force (read his story here), and shooting awe-inspiring photos (follow him on Instagram here). Luckily, we were able to catch up with the man himself, so he could take us through some of his favourite spots in India for capturing street shots.
Indians are normally very open to photographs – 8 out of 10 times they will happily give you the shot. So, the odds of creating great images are always in your favour in India. Here are some cities where you can increase those odds:
A capital city of striking contrasts, and one with a bigger population than that of Australia, Delhi is a city you simply cannot tire of. Exploring both Old and New Delhi offers chaotic streets with markets, mosques, street eats, and a buzz like no other.
^The streets of Old Delhi are the best area for street photography in Delhi. The image was shot on a lazy Sunday morning when shops are shut for the weekend and locals have time to relax from the ever-busy market. A man reads a local Sunday entertainment news and a barber shaves a beard.
This is one of my favourite photos because of how relaxed everyone is; the moment is honest. This is what real India is on a Sunday (on any other day this particular street would be buzzing).
Intrepid recommendation: Explore Delhi (plus Agra and Jaipur!) on this 8-day Golden Triangle tour.
A port city on India’s south-west coast, Kochi is a melting pot of Portuguese, Dutch, Chinese and British influences. Explore it by boat, witness a Kathakali dance performance, or gorge on a Keralan classic – fresh fish curry.
^The guy in the frame is a ‘tuk-tuk’ driver waiting for prospective clients at the heart of tourist spot in Kochi (by the Jewish Synagogue). I like how the wall colours are separated, and how they contrast with the colour of the window.
Intrepid recommendation: Spend several days in Kochi on this 12-day trip dedicated to Southern Indian cuisine.
Though historic Orchha is small, it’s filled with more beautiful temples and palaces than you could even imagine. Mix in its laid-back vibe, surrounding rural bliss and the friendliest locals, and you have a recipe for one great town.
^At the banks of the holy river Betwa. These are school children on an excursion, splashing water over each other. I set the camera on a tripod and quickly took a four-second exposure to capture the the movement of the kids.
^Orchha is home to one of the most famous Hindu temples; these people in the shot are pilgrims from a different town, probably waiting for a bus or other mode of public transport. The male member is probably buying chai tea as they wait; the mood was superb.
One of South India’s most spectacular cities, Mysore is easy-going and full of sights aplenty. Mysore Palace is an architectural wonder, the bazaar district is majorly atmospheric, and the yoga scene and abundant temples just don’t disappoint.
Intrepid recommendation: See the sights of Mysore on this 16-day trip through South India.
The spiritual capital of India, Varanasi is simply mesmerising. Home to millions of pilgrims (it’s one of the holiest cities in Hinduism) and pulsating with life in its crowded streets (it’s one of the world’s oldest continually inhabited cities), it’s truly a must visit.
It will always be my top city. Varanasi offers what no city offers: spirituality, timelessness, culture, honesty and contradiction. All of this makes for a great image. (To see more of my Varanasi photos, check out this photo essay.)
^Aarti is a Hindu ceremony and because Varanasi is so important to Hindu faith, it’s among the top spots to watch it and take street photos. Every morning and evening there is an elaborate ceremony where prayers are offered on the banks of the River Ganges. This was the morning one.
Intrepid recommendation: Take in the delights of Varanasi on this 11-day trip through the highlights of Northern India.
Rajasthan’s colourful capital brims with chaos and charm. Jaipur is known as the ‘Pink City’, but it offers so much more than unique architecture. Visit the hilltop Amber Fort, haggle in the enchanting old bazaars, and consider taking a hot air balloon over the city to take it all in.
^I captured these men singing hymns and chanting at the temple called Govind Devji Temple in Jaipur (one of the most popular temples). This temple has specific times, from morning to evening, where locals come and pray. The atmosphere is unreal.
^Morning scene in Jaipur where I caught this rickshaw puller taking nap on his rickshaw.
My tips for photographing people in India:
Always be prepared. Talk to people and they will give you the shot. It means you’ll also know the back story of that image better.
Rural India is where I find the most beautiful moments. Get off the beaten path, even if it is a touristy city, and you will find corners of authenticity just a few kms away from the centre of town.
My advice for taking portraits respectfully:
Firstly, I would recommend getting closer to the subject. Getting closer means knowing the moment and the story well, so the resulting shot is intimate and authentic. Never hesitate to talk to the subject if necessary and don’t forget to thank them after the shot. Breaking the ice will result in great shots.
You will be tempted to take candid street shots in India but as a photographer you will sense if it is appropriate to take a shot or not. Be responsible while capturing intimate moments, as some may get offended easily. If you are sensing some resistance then talk to the person, ask for permission before you take the shot.
You will miss some shots, that’s okay, move on and another shot will be waiting for you right around the corner – India will always offer you another shot!
Fancy taking photos like this and embarking on the adventure of a lifetime? Check out our small group adventures in India.
(All images c/o Pravin Tamang. Check out his Instagram account here.)