Flying to the far east of India we jumped into some Kolkata Street photography and discovered a taste of the real India

The Kolkata Experience – The Real India

Booking accommodation was the first sign that Kolkata wasn’t a tourist destination. Where as the other cities we visited offered a large range of backpacker hostels, all we could find in Kolkata were hotels and a homestay. But this was one of the main draws of Kolkata. To get away from the backpacker scene and enjoy a glimpse of real Indian urban life.

We started our days early (5am) to get out and see the city in action. Watching the city buzz as the sun started to rise was fascinating. The farmers crossing the bridge with huge packages balanced on their heads, the bartering between traders, the chai men keeping the workers energised. There were countless stories all around. Blink and you missed something. The area around Howrah bridge with the flower market and morning rituals along the river was the highlight for me. In hindsight I wished I’d gotten up even earlier.

Kolkata is the old British capital of India. Wondering around you can easily spot the colonial influence in the architecture, the old style cabs and cricket is huge. Kolkata is also one of the last cities in the world where you can find hand pulled rickshaws.

The awesome host at our homestay introduced us to a couple of local restaurants and his favourite chai spot (an outdoor bar surrounded by fairylight filled trees). By the way if I haven’t mentioned it yet, the food in India is incredible! I thought 3 curries a day would get old soon, but after 2 weeks I was still loving every mouthful.

Best locations for Kolkata Street Photography

  1. Mallick Ghat Flower Market. A highlight for me as there was so much going on and lots of colour and light to play with. Get there before 5am.
  2. Along the river next to Howrah Bridge. Enjoy locals going about their morning rituals (bathing, singing, washing clothes, praying etc) and mud wrestlers.
  3. Chitpur. The area just inland from the flower market, filled with stalls and busy alleys.
  4. New Market. A fashion, meat (made a few of our group go vegetarian for the rest of the trip) and spice market.
  5. College Street. The worlds largest 2nd hand book market.

Although 4 and 5 had some interest, if I returned to Kolkata for street photography I’d probably spend all my time at 1, 2 and 3 which are all right next to each other.

Top Tips for visiting Kolkata

  1. Get up early. The city comes alive a good hour or two before sunrise so get out there early to maximise shooting opportunities.
  2. Stay at a homestay. The homestay was a great source of authentic local recommendations.
  3. Eat local. The little local road side restaurants were delicious and none of us got sick (sadly the same couldn’t be said about a Domino’s pizza…).
  4. Dive into the chaos. Exploring the flower market and surrounding area in the morning is full on but dive in and you’ll soon adjust and start seeing loads of stories to capture.

Fancy a peak at my favourite photos from our India Street Photograph trip?