Kolkata Photography Adventure

A portrait of a woman in front of a colorful background in Kolkata, India.

Here's how to enhance your Kolkata photography adventure by exploring fantastic street photography in Kolkata.

I was fortunate to have several portrait photography adventures while in Kolkata.

In the case of the above photo I had just finished photographing the gentleman on the bottom right corner of the frame.

I included him in the composition, for reasons of fun and balance, when an onlooker expressed a desire to be in on the action.

I asked her to stand in the centre of the photo so that she was framed between the towels and the man’s face on either side of the frame.

River Taxi, Kolkata, India

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A Candid Moment In A Formal Portrait

I love the warm/cool contrasting colors throughout the scene and the dominance of her hands in the picture.

In the case of a traditional portrait it's normally essential that the eyes are both open and illuminated for the viewer to engage with the subject.

But although this photo features a woman as the primary subject, I didn't make the photo for her.

It’s really a documentary portrait and probably best classified as street photography.

I'm very comfortable making photos of strangers. However, I prefer making interactive portraits rather than candid images of folks I observe through the camera.

What I tried to do in this image was embed a candid, street feel into a formal portrait. I think the slightly chaotic appearance of this highly composed image is representative of the experience of wandering around the backstreets of Kolkata.

In this case dark shadows mask her eyes and, as a consequence, encourage the viewer to journey down the length of her arms towards, what appears to be, strong man-like hands.

It's an ambiguous element within this picture that I find pleasing. I hope you do as well.

Explore Alternate Beauty in Kolkata

Is the photo beautiful?

Well, that's for you to decide. I feel it has a certain, alternate beauty based more on the color palette and physical elements within the frame than any notion of a pleasing likeness of the primary subject depicted.

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

Why It's Important To Adapt To Changing Circumstances

A few quick pics of her followed and, before I knew it, a bunch of kids appeared also wanting to be in on the action.

India is a vibrant and chaotic country and there are opportunities everywhere for the enthusiastic photography.

It’s generally not too difficult to photograph people in India. And I found my adventure in Kolkata street photography to be a very rewarding experience.

The colors blue and aqua dominate this household courtyard in Kolkata, India.

Respecting Privacy and Keeping Kids Safe

One of those kids even led me across the narrow laneway to a small Hindu shrine and then, behind that, into the courtyard of a family home.

While I could see possibilities for great compositions I didn’t feel comfortable being there without other adults being present.

After all, I was a stranger in that environment. I know I can be trusted and that my intentions are pure.

But you never know who the next bloke arriving in town will be and I wouldn’t want a local child to think that all westerns are trustworthy. They’re not.

I didn’t want to frighten her so I made a few pics and moved on.

A young boy holding a lollipop, that matches a similar looking item on his top, in Kolkata, India.

The Worlds Of Documentary Photographer And Photojournalist

While it’s perfectly acceptable to refer to these images as street photography I’d say the photos in this post fit into the documentary travel genre.

You can think of documentary photography as an artist's alternative to photojournalism.

It's important to understand that, in reality, such definitions are fluid and any apparent demarcation between genres is really only there to help folks understand how to make sense of certain photographs.

There are documentary photographers who work as photojournalists just as there are photojournalists who work in the documentary tradition.

The way I make sense of it is to think of a photojournalist as a commercial photographer making images, usually on a tight deadline and budget, in line with the needs of an editor reflecting the preferences of a magazine's viewing audience.

A documentary photographer may photograph the same event or subject matter. The difference is that they will usually undertake to self fund the project without any guarantee of publishing the images via traditional commercial means.

As the documentary photographer’s images are often more personal in nature they’re probably more likely to end up, at the photographer's expense, on a gallery wall.

Commercial Realities For The Travel Photographer

If you're hoping to make any money from your own travel-based photography you need to work out where your images fit into the greater scheme of things.

The next step is to explore ways to display, publish and, ultimately, sell them.

If you are commercially minded you will either have to find an audience that's prepared to pay for your own, unique vision of the world or adapt your approach to meet the needs of the market you find yourself working within.

Either way if you’re motivated to make beautiful people based street photography a Kolkata photography adventure might be just what you need.

Glenn Guy, Travel Photography Guru