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ComplexCity: Photography Workshop at Kharghar

This is the third and final blog of a 3-part series on YUVA’s annual urban festival ComplexCity, which seeks to bring different participants of Mumbai to engage with the question of building an inclusive city. The first part on the Youth Convention can be read here and the second part on the Youth Competetions and Cultural Events organised during ComplexCity can be read here.

Mumbai, a city well known for its hustle culture, bustling lanes, and well, of course, the heat. The city is our teacher. Sounds intriguing, doesn’t it? 

This city is so much more than what a first glance would suggest. Each and every nook has a tale to tell. What holds this city together, despite the vast differences, is the sense of integration among its diverse sets of people—from sharing personal space in local trains to whining about potholes in monsoons, there is unity everywhere.

We were presented with a chance to view this very city in a broad light through YUVA’s ComplexCity Photography Workshop. The workshop was helmed by a well-renowned urban photographer, Gopal MS. On the way to work, Gopal would take pictures of various cityscapes, and in 2009 he started a blog named Mumbai Paused to share his expanding collection of images. 

As they rightfully say, ‘Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder’ and that is what this workshop was all about. Gopal guided us through a journey of the unacknowledged, neglected, and unpopular side of the city rather than the pretty and attractive aspect that the city is typically portrayed as. A photograph of Antilla—the house of one of Asia’s wealthiest families—taken from the sidewalks of Haji Ali Dargah illustrated the polarities in the city, from homes of the very rich to how the poor navigate their lives. A picture of the bustling Bhuleshwar market, taken on an afternoon, illustrated the diversity of the city. Images of various Chembur streets demonstrated how marginalised communities present themselves. We watched various images, illustrating how people portray their political or religious beliefs, and got deeper into conversations on how every photo has a backstory.

We are a nation of 1.4 billion people, and there are just that many voices all around us. Unfortunately, somewhere amid our hectic schedules and the highly hyped rat race, we forget our individuality and that of everyone around us. Some of us love narrating stories to share experiences; others enjoy listening to stories. There are others who adhere to the idea of experiencing the present moment fully, without putting a lens between themselves and the outside world. A number of us feel equally intimidated about the prospect of using a camera.

Gopal’s insights on photography were fresh with us, when we ventured into the bylanes of Kharghar, to take photos of what we saw around us. There was an abundance of beauty, even in the mundane which we saw around us. This was reflected in the kinds of photos participants shot of the city. Some were drawn to the environment, some noticed the people, some were taken in by the architecture, and some were attracted to colors, lights, nature, animals, and birds. Some people sought out individuals with a variation in fashion. A person in our midst made an effort to depict human emotions and individual differences, while the other discovered humour in unexpected places across the city. 

Image 1: Facilitation of Photography Workshop By Mr. Gopal 

There is an emotion behind every picture and people’s interpretation of these photographs had a lot to do with their cultural background and the values instilled in them. The very fact that we as a group were able to share our opinions and perspectives regarding photography, culture, and the city in itself was very intriguing.

When I saw the photographs, it made me realize that Mumbai is so much more than just a city of dreams or a means of livelihood, it is an existence in itself. As someone who is relatively new to this city, I was completely absorbed by how there is a lot to explore, and how much we learn through each others’ storytelling through photos. 

Image 2: Participants of the Photography Workshop

My empathy is what drives me to know the people and through YUVA’s workshop, I gained a better idea of how this very skill of mine can represent the stories of people via photographs. After all, photography isn’t just about clicking a perfect picture but eliciting emotions through visual storytelling.

Would you be interested in such a refreshing experience?

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