A walk around the urban sprawl of Shahpur Jat,nestled next to South Delhi’s Siri Fort,throws up some interesting insights. Upscale fashion boutiques jostle for space along with kirana stores; fruit stalls mushroom around artist studios,and swanky cafes become quirky neighbours to the nearby tabelewallahs. Such differences are reflected as a glaring reminder of the evolving fabric of this 900-year old settlement when photographer Philippe Calia gets involved.
His ongoing photo exhibition titled “A Summer in Shahpur Jat”,on display at Printer’s Devil as part of the Delhi Photo Festival,captures the residents of this sprawling settlement in their respective environments. Calia,who shuttles between France and Mumbai,has tried to show the diversity of the market-cum-residential area through various portraits captured by means of profile shots. One of his subjects,a security guard dressed in his uniform stands at the entrance of a mobile phone store,looking blankly into the camera in the photograph titled Chandramani 19.06.13. It is a delicate portrait of the mundane life of a security guard. There is no invasiveness,but a willing participation from the subject to share his workspace. “This man has been a security guard for over 20 years at various stores. He saves up just enough to feed his small family. What drew me to him was his resemblance to actor Naseeruddin Shah,” says Calia,28,who is having his second solo exhibition.
The concept was the brainchild of studio co-founder Kaushik Ramaswamy,who was casually looking for someone to utilise his *large*-format Shen Hao camera (a cheap remake of the Linhoff) that was lying idle at his studio. “I was inspired by *Irwing* Peng’s Small Trades (a photo essay on professions in New York),which talks about small-time professions in New York. I wanted to do a similar project in Shahpur Jat based on that,” says Ramaswamy.
The modern face of the market as a boutique hub is reflected in the portrait of a store attendant sitting inside the shop with a look of longing,and waiting for customers,in the image titled Thang 02.07.13. A chaiwallah exudes a look of pride and fulfilment as he attends to a customer in his stall,in a photograph titled Raju 27.07.13. There is also Akhui 04.07.13,a photograph that has tattoo artist Akhui from the North East posing in his studio. There is a strong presence of the old character of the market in an image titled Anil 04.07.13,where Calia captures a man from the Panwar community (the initial inhabitants of this farmer’s market),seated calmly next to his boxer dog at the entrance of a building. In Jagdish 25.07.13,he shows a popular pass-time of this area,which is that of playing cards in a park on a summer afternoon.
“There was a genuine interest among my subjects to be part of this project as they wanted to draw attention to this part of their city,” says Calia,who was an* exchange programe student at the Mass Communication Institute at Jamia Milia Islamia University *in 2007. All the 23 coloured photographs were captured through April-July this year. “I am trying to focus as much on people as I am on the space they are in. This is still a work in progress as I want to create a collection of 100 images that show the diversity of the market,” adds Calia,who speaks passable Hindi,which helped him build a rapport with his subjects.
The exhibition is on display at Printer’s Devil,252,A/2,Shahpur Jat,till October 10