Posts Tagged ‘city’

London School of Economics Cities Programme

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Some assignments are straightforward, some take a bit more thought. When the London School of Economics assigned me to photograph Delhi for their global cities conference I was delighted but also slightly nervous.

The brief was to image the city illustrating the difficulties of living in and governing India’s sprawling, chaotic capital. My preference is always to try and make beautiful pictures – but trying to marry that with an exacting shoot list that focused on academic concepts was always going to be challenging. It was however, the shoot list (and my drivers and assistants – notably the ever-cool Sunayana) that saved me. I’m always talking about the importance of scripting what you shoot and this was a perfect example of how it can really help. This wasn’t an assignment about what I wanted to show of Delhi or interpreting the city – but clearly illustrating issues that affect it. In fact, it was a very interesting way to work – trying to find places or people that evidenced concepts as diverse as public/private space and illegal adaptions of utilities.

Born and brought up in London, I’m fascinated by cities and the way that they develop and change and Delhi for me has been a kind of surrogate city – a sort of prism through which to view myself and see how metropolises (and I dare you to find the correct plural of metropolis…) evolve and change. Delhi, like London is palimpsestic in that cities have been built on top of cities. I can walk through any number of places in Delhi and find the exact same things that Dickens wrote about for example – the very foundations of a modern industrial world – but I can also find something much older – the Vedic prayers intoned by people still worshipping on the banks of the hideously polluted Yamuna.

One of the highlights was returning to Kathputli Colony that I’ve written about before and making work with the people there trying to save their homes and way of life. I was delighted to be re-united with the singer Bhagwan Das and it is his wife Sarbati that’s shown at the end in the last picture here at the conference in front of a giant poster and on the cover of the magazine.

Here are some of the images that I made.

 

 

India - New Delhi - An overview of the city from an apartment block in Dwarka

India – New Delhi – An overview of the city from an apartment block in Dwarka

 

India - New Delhi - A man  seen through a tangle of illegal electricity and water cables in the Munika area.

India – New Delhi – A man seen through a tangle of illegal electricity and water cables in the Munika area.

 

India - Delhi - A local meeting of residents and activists at Kathputli Colony that is faced with destruction and closure

India – Delhi – A local meeting of residents and activists at Kathputli Colony that is faced with destruction and closure

 

India - Delhi - Crowds in Sadar Bazaar

India – Delhi – Crowds in Sadar Bazaar

 

India - New Delhi - Young people in make up perform a street dance on a road blocked to cars in a section of Connaught Place during a Raahgiri Day

India – New Delhi – Young people in make up perform a street dance on a road blocked to cars in a section of Connaught Place during a Raahgiri Day where traffic is halted and people take over the streets.

 

India - New Delhi - Traffic and Metro construction work at South Extension Market

India – New Delhi – Traffic and Metro construction work at South Extension Market

 

India - Delhi - Workers on the new footbridge over the Yamuna River

India – Delhi – Workers on the new footbridge over the Yamuna River

 

India - Delhi - A romantic couple sit in the gardens of the Ambiance Mall, Saket,

India – Delhi – A romantic couple sit in the gardens of the Ambiance Mall, Saket,

 

India - New Delhi - Sarbati Das from Kathputli Colony (in front of her cover image used as a poster at the LSE Cities Conference) and the excellent Sunayana Wadhawan

India – New Delhi – Sarbati Das from Kathputli Colony (in front of her cover image used as a poster at the LSE Cities Conference) and the brilliant Sunayana.

Sarajevo

Friday, April 6th, 2012

Today marks the twentieth anniversary of the start of the war in Bosnia. Cities, like people can produce strange feelings in visitors – leave tiny traces of discomfort and Sarajevo always struck me as being a little odd; a little schizophrenic… of course I never knew it before the war as a place of civility and culture. The work I made there was always conditioned by conflict but I thought I’d take this opportunity to show a small selection of work from the city taken almost a decade apart that show two different sides. The work from 1997 was made as I’d just returned from a near fatal trip to Sierra Leone and I came back to a landscape of a bitter and fragile winter. I remember the dark coffee and the sleet, the ominous surrounding mountains and the deep, jagged gouges in the buildings – and in the people. I photographed the Blind School, devastated by shelling but trying slowly to come back to life. I photographed children learning to use their canes on a path that the instructor, Borko swore was surrounded by unexploded ordnance. It made the children – and me – very diligent. A decade later I came again in better weather and better spirits with an old friend of mine from Delhi, the critic and writer Meenakshi Shedde to make a story on the Sarajevo Film Festival. Clearly, for me and the city, most of our visible scars had healed.

 

Bosnia – Sarajevo – Two friends navigate their way to school through a possible minefield, Sarajevo.The Blind School was the only centre in the region for visually impaired children and young adults. It was extensively damaged during the civil war and was used by the Bosnian Serb army as a military position from which to snipe and shell the city. The few teaching staff left during the war managed to visit some of their blind pupils and continue a limited education. The school reopened after the war ended but conditions remained dire.

 

Bosnia - Sarajevo - A boy makes his way to class in the destroyed Blind School.

Bosnia - Sarajevo - Two friends walk together at the Blind School

 

Bosnia - Sarajevo - A teacher pays a home visit to a deaf-blind boy and his family

 

Bosnia - Sarajevo - The Peace Statue and the Orthodox cathedral, Sarajevo

 

Bosnia - Sarajevo - A square in Sarajevo's Old Town showing the Sebilj and the minaret of the Gazi Husrev-beg Mosque

 

Bosnia - Sarajevo - Men play outsize chess in a park, Sarajevo

 

Bosnia - Sarajevo - A couple enjoy drinks in the late afternoon sun at the Sarajevo Film Festival, Sarajevo, Bosnia

Meditation Flash Mob…

Monday, January 23rd, 2012

I’ve mentioned before about people finding private space for themselves in busy cities so here was a nice little thing – a meditation flash mob – perhaps a couple of hundred people or so came to sit by the stone lion in the great Court of the British Museum on Friday evening… shame I was photographing rather than being a part of it as it looked rather interesting…

 

UK - London - A man performs qi gong exercises as part of a meditation flash mob in the Great Court of the British Museum

 

UK - London - People taking part in a meditation flash mob in the Great Court of the British Museum

 

UK - London - A woman taking part in a meditation flash mob in the Great Court of the British Museum

Delhi at 100

Monday, December 12th, 2011

There’s a rather charming slideshow on the BBC here on the changing face of Delhi by one of its elderly residents. A shame that the city authorities haven’t made more of this to be honest. Delhi remains an enigmatic and petulant youth amongst other capitals: certainly for me infuriating and engaging at the same time.

 

Of course, as Kanika Singh, Convener of Delhi Heritage Walks told Tehelka magazine, not everyone shares that view, “Only last year, we evicted all street hawkers while preparing for the Commonwealth Games—and now we are celebrating their contributed (sic.) to our ‘heritage’. I don’t feel like celebrating this occasion. Whose Delhi are we celebrating?”.

The point is surely that cities only belong to their inhabitants when they feel they have some stake in them. I agree that most of Delhi is too busy trying to earn a crust to survive to be bothered about the anniversary but surely (and, if you’ve read this blog before you will know that I am the very last person to romanticise or excuse the Raj) the city is the sum of it’s parts: Hindu, Muslim and the British all have legacies that has made Delhi what it is and decrying any of those for some neo-nationalist point is surely counter-productive. Delhi is what it is and pretending that the city – or indeed much of India for that matter, doesn’t have some English blood is as pointless and saying it isn’t a melting pot of past empires. Selective cultural memory is a very dangerous thing for all societies (remember Ayodya?) and only by melding the various strains in a city (certainly one as large and anarchic as Delhi) can you hope to create a genuinely inclusive society…

Anyway, lecture over. Here’s one I made earlier…

India - Gurgaon - Bricklayers constructing a house in the shadow of an exclusive new development

 

An Old Delhi facelift

Sunday, September 25th, 2011

No – not some mediaeval torture method but a proposal that after years of delay, the Chadni Chowk redevelopment plan will finally get under way under the auspices of the Shahjahanabad Corporation. Many Delhi residents will of course be skeptical that this will prove to be the success its champions claim. However, if it means preserving at least something of the faded and broken beauty of the Walled City then I wish it very, very good luck. My only concern is that this is not some run-down inner city in the West being gentrified: it’s a vibrant and working area where thousands and thousands of people make a living. The imperative to preserve its heritage, whilst obviously critical, should be tempered at least by a consideration for those that call Old Delhi home. Although I suspect one can guess how that will turn out…

 

India - Delhi - Heavy traffic on the congested streets of Old Delhi looking towards the Jama Masjid, Delhi, India

 

India - Delhi - Traffic on Chadni Chowk looking towards the Red Fort, Old Delhi

 

India - Delhi - A man lounges inside the remains of the Sultan Singh Ghar ki Haveli. Much of Old Delhi's historical architecture has been lost to new development.