Jaipur, India: Street Photography Goldmine

DoorsI have done a few posts already about our trip to Jaipur, India.  It was only a 4-day trip, but as I have been looking through our photos, it’s surprising the number and quality of interesting shots we were able to get in such a short time.  Especially considering that it was 104 Fahrenheit and we eventually had to retreat to the safety and comfort of an air conditioner for many hours of the day.  I’ll start with the huge wooden doors of the Royal Heritage Haveli, an 18th-century structure we stayed in for an extremely reasonable price, by the way – here’s my review) Trikes

There’s so much going on in the streets. You can see all types of things being transported for sale in local shops, such as the load of tricycles being taken on the back of a motorcycle (above) – or humans being ferried around by bicycle rickshaw, below.

Bike RickshawConspicuously absent were the hordes of motor-driven rickshaws we have come to take for granted. These “auto-rickshaws” with their noisy, polluting engines, are ubiquitous in every other Indian city we have visited. I have often thought that an inexpensive low-polluting alternative would be of huge benefit to any large Indian city, but the question would be how to charge the vehicle. Yet somehow in Jaipur this problem has been solved – as this was the first place in India where we have seen mostly electric rickshaws. No idea how they get recharged overnight.   Below a “traditional” autorickshaw (long exposure) followed by a couple of the electric ones, shot while we were trapped by the first hints of the coming monsoon. Gate


VendorA number of the street names in the city center end in “Bazaar” – and are lined with small shops like the one above, with protection from the sun and rain, in addition to many vendors who set up on the streets themselves (below). It’s all buzzing with constant activity as people go from shop to shop finding the best deals.

Vegetables for SaleMan with Beard

In some places, people are literally making the goods you can buy right in front of you.   Below, guys are cutting and welding metal bars into security grates.  We thought this guy could double as a model in his off time.

MetalworkerIn between the shops you can spot scenes like the one below, which can also make an interesting photograph.   A bit of patience waiting for a person to walk by, even a dog, would have made this shot more interesting, but we had to keep moving! Wall

Along the Tripolia Bazar you can also see and snap a photo of the 7-storey Swargasuli Tower, also known as the Ishwar Lat, which was built in 1749 by the Maharaja Ishwari Singh to celebrate a military victory. If you want to get this particular angle, you’ll have to spend some time removing the electrical cables using Photoshop, as I did…

Ishwar LatAll the grainy photos you see on this post were taken with a 65-year-old Agfa Karomat 36 – the rest (including black and white shots) were taken with a Fuji X100.  I like the shot I got of the four men below – they came across the street to the public faucets and I was semi-stealthily snapping photos of them, advancing the film, snapping again – and when I stopped there was a guy grinning at me because he could see I was trying to be sneaky so I wouldn’t disturb the scene. It’s hard to be sneaky when you’re a white dude in India wearing Vibram Fivefingers shoes and taking pictures with a 65-year-old camera. Four Men

I was also carrying around a 100-year-old folding camera that day. I can’t remember which one it was. But as we were walking around a guy got pretty excited about it and wanted a closer look. I let him take a picture of us but we had the distance settings wrong. He said he was a photographer. All of the other (7) pictures on that roll came out way too dark or even blurrier, so he was more of a photographer than me, I guess.

VintageWe also visited the “Hawa Mahal” during that trip.  This “Palace of the Winds” is one of the pink sandstone buildings for which Jaipur is known, and nicknamed the “pink city.”  The front which faces the street is known for its 953 small windows integrated into a complex latticework along its five-storey front.  The lattices were so the royal ladies could observe what was going on in the streets below without violating purdah.  This has been photographed from far better angles, but supposedly the front of the building is designed to be in the shape of Krishna’s crown, and the latticework has the effect of cooling the building naturally (hence “palace of the winds/palace of the breeze”).  I don’t know – like I said, it was 104 degrees Fahrenheit. Hawa Mahal

Once inside, you could climb from storey to storey, and the inside/top is open so you can have a look around the nearby buildings and get a nice view of the rest of the city palace, the streets below, and other structures including the famous Jantar Mantar – the Jaipur Observatory dating from the 18th century.  Not in the picture below, though.

Hawa MahalWe ended one of our days in Jaipur by stopping at the Jal Mahal – or “water palace.”  This palace, in the middle of a lake, can be viewed from a road and “boardwalk” area along the western edge of the lake – so we knew the sun would be sinking behind us and would hopefully create interesting light conditions.  As in the photo these boys asked us to take of them. Golden light

The palace itself, seen below, cannot be visited.  It’s in the process of being converted into an ultra-exclusive restaurant.  From photos it looks like perhaps the palace was there and the lake rose up around it (or the palace sank) but apparently this is how it is supposed to look, and there are four usable storeys below the water surface, kept dry for the last 250 years.

Jal MahalAccording to one tourist website, the lake used to be filthy – a “foul smelling sewage outlet” – but has bounced back and supports a great deal of wildlife – we saw a number of water birds.  Some rats too.  Also counts as wildlife, technically.   Lakefront

Until three years ago you could take “romantic gondola rides” as well.  Now they say there are only camel rides and you can snap a few photos and check out the small food and souvenir stalls, not much more than about 30 minutes’ worth. But we were there for a couple of hours, mainly people-watching and interacting with locals, who took a great deal of interest in us as the only non-Indians walking around the area.  As often happens in India, one family there on an outing took a particular interest in us and all wanted to be photographed with us.  We explained about our family and they wanted to see pictures of the girls on our mobile phone (below)

Sharing Photos

Street FoodIt was fun watching the vendors who had traditional fancy clothes on hand that you could, for a fee, put on and have yourself or your kids photographed in. There were also lots of food vendors with local snacks displayed quite attractively for potential customers. I tried to keep an open mind and try the local food, but my 3 weeks of working in the fast-food business kicked in and I couldn’t handle watching them scoop up servings using their hands as serving utensils, and then alternately taking money from customers and giving change with the same hand, without missing a beat.  I’m sure it was quite good but I’ll never know now! Jal MahalAs the sun began to sink behind the buildings, it was time to start planning for our “Uber” cab (for us cheaper with their fixed rates, than the auto-rickshaw drivers who hike up their rates when they see foreigners. Plus there’s air conditioning and seat belts). It was time to head back to the hotel and start flipping through all of the great photos we had stored on our SD cards.  For all the photos we took in Jaipur, you can go to this Flickr album. Tourist Assistance Force

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One Response to Jaipur, India: Street Photography Goldmine

  1. GaiaGenesis says:

    I like “Vegetables For Sale” best. Becky and I will hope to visit you in India some day! Thanks for sharing.
    John Elliott

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