Kolkata Beauty is Ageless


A dignified black and white portait of a gentle soul in Kolkata, India


I love making portrait photos and my travels have taught me that Kolkata beauty is ageless.

There's something really special about the way light brings the face to life. Likewise shadows enhance character traits and bring out the structural elements of the face.

Of course the eyes, known as windows to the soul, are both mysterious and expressive. The success of most portraits is based, at least in part, on your ability to light the eyes.

Images in this post were made on the same afternoon and evening in a quiet Kolkata (i.e., Calcutta) side street.

As the light grew low a wide aperture and medium to high ISO were required to make sharp images without the use of a tripod.

Make Your Photos And Quickly Move On

In the case of the elderly lady it was simply a matter of approaching her and asking permission to make a photograph.

I often find that most folks, particularly older ones, are flattered by the attention and quite enjoy the process.

However, I'm always careful to make my photos and move on without taking up too much of their time or making them feel nervous or overly self conscious.

Portrait of an interested soul in his shop in a local market in Kolkata, India.

Photographing The Elderly Is A Revelation

I always feel a sense of euphoria after making a good photo of an elderly citizen, particularly when I feel the image has the potential to become an important document after their passing.

I often pass on my email details in the hope that there's a member of the family who might be interesting in seeing the finished image.

Photos have the potential of becoming time capsules and, as such, can be valuable to the subject’s family for generations to come.

A group of kids pose for a photo in an alleyway in Kolkata, India.

Photographing Kids Is A Joyous Experience

Photographing kids can be a lot of fun. In countries like India it’s often the case that, despite sometimes limited English, the kids in question enjoy interacting with well-meaning and polite foreigners.

If completed quickly the photography process can be a bit of a game and I often find that, after photographing one child, there's one or two more kids eager to be a part of the action.

And that's exactly how the above image was made. I had just finished photographing one of the kids when the rest expressed an interest in becoming involved.

While I managed to make a few portraits of several of these kids, I very much like the sense of intimacy that's depicted in this somewhat candid moment.

The very things that would be imperfect about this image, if it had been commissioned by the children’s parents, are what make it work as a documentary street photo.

Those little moments of blur and the child looking down really add to the candid nature of this photo.

Retailer and His Wares, Kolkata, India

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Photographing Children | My Approach

Given the fact that not all photographers have honourable or pure intentions, I'm always very careful about whom I approach.

I won't make contact with a child unless they're with a parent, guardian or, in some cases, a sibling or other children.

I go about the process of making the photo quickly and would rarely ask the child to move more than a few meters away from where I've met them before making the photo.

Of course beggar children can follow you for miles before you shake them off, but that's another thing entirely.


A nostalgic view of a tea store displaying Assam Darjeeling Tea in a street market in Kolkata, India.


Should Kolkata Be On The Tourist Trail?

Given that this post is based around the concept of ageless beauty in Kolkata I thought that this photo of a tea store in a Kolkata side street would be a good fit.

It was made a short distance away from the other images in this post and I think the warm, sepia-like treatment with which I've imbued the photo brings out a lovely sense of nostalgia.

Actually I think that sense of nostalgia is very much in line with the title of this post and, to my mind, with Kolkata itself.

Kolkata is an old city that's full of charm and the echoes of times past. Indeed the very age of the city seems to hang down upon it, much like the weather.

Nonetheless it is a fascinating city and the intrepid traveller will find lots to see and photograph as they wander the streets of this large and heavily populated metropolis.

I don’t believe an exploration of India is really complete without a visit to this historic and culturally rich city.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru