Chennai: Grit and Grain

In Namibia, photography was all about long lenses, tripods, “the golden hour”, and finding the right guide. Since moving to Chennai, a large city in India, the lenses have gotten much shorter, shooting is sometimes instinctive; and sweeping landscapes have made way for the grit and grime of everyday human life, toil, and aging buildings. It’s been a perfect setting for testing out some of my older cameras, along with grainy black and white – sometimes expired – film. A recent photowalk near some of the city’s older buildings, and then through a neighborhood of car salvage entrepreneurs, drove this home.

We ignored a crudely hand-painted “keep out” sign to snap photos of this crumbling LIC (Life Insurance Company) building and within 30 seconds, were confronted by a man on a motorcycle who demanded to know why we were photographing a government building.

Something tells me the Bilal Hotel is not currently accepting reservations.

This neighborhood drugstore has seen better days.

These guys will repair your tires while you wait.

This fellow stopped and asked me for some money. My pockets were literally empty, and I told him so. So instead, he insisted I take his picture. Then he wanted to see, and I had to explain this was not possible on a film camera. He accepted this and offered a handshake and went on his way.

I love this guy’s paint job!

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