8 awesome photographers from 3 continents, 4 cities, 4 flights, 3 night trains, and an India street photography trip of a life time.

After months of waiting it was finally time. I was sitting at the back of a British Airways plane while we waited on the tarmac. A typically British winter cold drizzle ran down the windows. I was sat next to a young Sikh fella returning home to India after living in Canada. As we took off I felt a wave of excitement. Our Indian street photography adventure was about to begin.

With the trip offering such a range of in-depth experiences I found it impossible to limit it to a single blog post. I’m using this post to share a selection of 40 of my favourite photos from across the trip. Photos which I’m both proud of but also that I feel showcase the India that I experiences. This also gives me a chance to take a step back on reflect on what the experience meant to me personally.

If you wanted to dive in deeper I also created posts for each of the cities we visited – Varanasi, Kolkata, Jodhpur and New Delhi. And if you’re interested on what it felt like to be on our Indian street photography adventure I put together a behind the scenes look.

India street photography stories by the train tracks with colourful buildings

PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

Reflecting back on our 2 weeks in India, there was so much that we saw and experienced. These are the things that stood out to me most:

Generosity from those with so little

 Walking through the city streets it was common for people to make a gesture as we passed where they brought a cupped hand up to their mouth. I assumed they were begging and asking for food. I could not have been more wrong. They were in fact offering us chai (tea). Even while walking through a recently demolished slum, a women sitting next to a pile of bricks that used to be her home asked if I’d like a cup of tea. This was one example of many I witnessed of Indian generosity.

Incredible hospitality

Along with the chai, throughout our trip there was a great sense that Indians wanted to look after their foreign guests, without expecting anything in return. From the happiness the high majority of Indians showed at having their photo taken to a completely stranger walking with me for 10 minutes to direct me to the shop I was trying to find and then even going in with me so I didn’t get a ‘tourist’ price.

Frustrations with inequality

India has a huge amount of poverty but it also has masses of wealth. One of their largest examples of wealth is their space program which has been having a lot of success. But I struggle to see how you can rationalise spending billions on space exploration while half your population don’t have access to a toilet.

Calm and beauty in chaos

It’s so easy to feel overwhelmed in India. The noises, the smells, things bumping into you, movement all around – it’s a true assault on the senses. But the chaos is just a collection of small, individual stories and when you start to slow down and witness these stories, you see the world around you in a very different way. Even in areas that seem dirty, there’s great beauty to be found.

We share so much in common

Landscapes, architecture, clothes, language, food and gestures may all look different. But the more time you spend with people from other countries the more you learn to realise how similar we all are. Students joking around with their friends, an old man catching up on the latest cricket scores in the paper, kids playing pranks on each other followed by a scolding from mum for getting their clothes dirty and the elderly sitting around discussing local politics.

Boy rowing boat at sunrise on Ganges in Varanasi, India

My biggest take aways from our street photography experience

  1. Slow Down. It’s easy to get overwhelmed by everything happening around you, so stop trying to capture everything. Accept that you will miss things. Slow down and start picking out the stories that interest you the most and then stick with them.
  2. Connect with your subjects and don’t get too clinical. I fell into this trap about halfway through our trip. I started prioritising composition and technical elements over the story in front of me. Connect with your environment and subjects first, and then work on your composition to best showcase the story that inspired you.
  3. Wait. Be patient and stay with the story that inspired with you. You might have gotten the photo you went in to get but a photo can always be improved. Work on your composition and maybe try a different perspective. Plus you never know how the moment might evolve.
  4. The power of learning from others. The value of this can not be over stated enough. Whether you’re working a scene with someone, having your work critiqued or looking through someone’s camera to see how they approached a scene differently, learning from others is golden opportunity to grow as a photographer.

Top Tips for planning an India street photography trip

  1. The people make it. Have a good think about who you want to share the experience with. Who will be an awesome addition? Do they share your goals for the trip? Will they get on well with the rest of the group even if things get tough?
  2. Get up early. The cities come alive early and I often found this the best time to shoot. Towards the end of the trip I was often up before 5am.
  3. Slow down. If you’re feeling overwhelmed, slow down and focus on one thing. It could be a specific subject or maybe light, colour or a compositional element.
  4. Speak to the locals. The people we encountered were incredibly welcoming and hospitable, even inviting us into their homes. Speak to the locals, accept their offers of chai and connect more with your subjects and the environment to get killer photos.
  5. Pre-book 1st Class on night trains. Night trains are a fun adventure and worth trying once. But book 1st Class a month in advance (with only one carriage per train they book up fast).
  6. Keep camera gear light. I went with one body (Fuji X-T2) and one lens (23mm f2) and am so happy I did. Simplifying my gear meant I could spend more time focusing on what makes a great photo (light, composition and moment).
  7. Pack light. Make traveling a breeze by making sure everything you pack has a purpose. I took a backpack that was small enough to carry on flights.
  8. Embrace the Tuk Tuk. A great way to get around for cheap but if you’re planning trips longer than 20 minutes I’d recommend a taxi or boat.
  9. Learn from each other.  As mentioned above, these kind of trips are a golden opportunity to learn from each other. So invite people who are happy to share their work and what they’re seeing.
  10. Plan a break in the middle. In hind sight this was the one thing we wished we’d done differently. The constant shooting, travel and new experiences can really drain your energy. So having a little break in the middle to relax and re-energise is worth considering.

Here's my favourite 40 photos from our India Street Photography Adventure

 Any thoughts or questions? Shoot a comment below and I'll reply pronto

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