The Hot Pot Blog

May 28, 2014

Delhi the way I see it

open door single
Two weeks ago a professional photographer and a fellow FS spouse based in Chennai came to Delhi for a scheduled portrait shoot. She needed a photo assistant and I realized that I badly needed to get out of the house to capture on film all of my favorite details about Delhi–unencumbered by irresistibly kissable baby limbs and funny, if distracting, toddler antics.

I learned so much from Elise over the course of the weekend, about portraiture and coaching subjects and light and artistry and film.

I also learned that the kids can survive and thrive if I leave them in someone else’s care for several hours, several days in a row.

I feel less like a woman possessed than I did a few weeks ago when I was driving around town, hands clenched around my camera body, ready to jump out of the car and shoot on a moment’s notice. Somewhere in a box, on strips of negatives and a hard drive live the photos that show the things that I find beautiful about this place. Not captured perfectly or always very artistically, but captured well enough for me to remember why I have loved living here, what India means to me.

Delhi is a place with hard edges, it’s not always Incredible India, but when I look at these photos from the last few weeks, all I’m inclined to remember are the colorful details.

Like the hand-lettered signage on everything, it’s a wonder typographers world over don’t flock here to hover over the shoulders of barely-literate lettering craftsmen.

ice cream wall single

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Portra 400 Old Delhi Chowri Bazaar-2

for web handlettering double

The flowers.

man holding flowers for web

Old Delhi, pottery street and india gate-1

The chai. So much chai.

black and white chai side by side for website

Characters. Everywhere.

Old Delhi, pottery street and india gate-9

woman at pottery street

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Portra 400 Old Delhi Chowri Bazaar-3

for web guy in front of color panels

for web guy at drink stand film portra 400

In a country where there are always at least 5 people to do one person’s job, it’s still funny to me that the delivery of fresh milk is just about the only automated transaction here:

black and white milk for website

But if you need to lift something heavy, the only option is pure manpower:

black and white carrying bag for web

Everyday life is beautiful to me here, even as it is also hard, tragic and ruthlessly unfair. Delhi has a certain style to it. Morose but still somehow regal–like royalty adamantly in denial that the glory days have already come and gone. There’s something to admire in the arrogance of this city and even more to admire in the people who carve out their lives and their living in spite of it.

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And they do so beautifully.

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Delhi on B&W acros 100 pushed 3 stops and TMax400-5
Delhi on B&W acros 100 pushed 3 stops and TMax400-10
b&w chappati for web

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6 responses to “Delhi the way I see it”

  1. […] photos of Delhi. “Everyday life is beautiful to me here, even as it is also hard, tragic and ruthlessly […]

  2. Sharmishtha says:

    While Delhi *is* a hard place to live in because everyone there is so rootless and transient (Old Delhi being the exception), I’m surprised your impression is of a city in decline. From when I lived there till today, Delhi is a thriving, growing metro in sheer economic terms. There is so much money there that new migrants keep crowding in to find their own opportunity. In fact, isn’t that the ultimate optimistic step – that poor people leave their homes in the villages to try and make it in the big, bad, bustling city?

    • Dani says:

      You are right Sharmishtha in your perspective I think. Migrants keep coming, new shops and restaurants are opening, heck, I even found heirloom organic kale a few weeks ago and a chi-chi market!! That’s more cosmopolitan than my own hometown in Wisconsin! But, when I say a city in decline I think I’m taking a longer view. Delhi is so ancient and it’s been won and captured and destroyed and rebuilt so many times and I think there is always that history lurking in the shadows for me, that sense that what is here today might not be there tomorrow. Delhi is always in a state of rebirth to me I think. Does that make any sense?

  3. Stasha says:

    Lovely blog, amazing photos! I don’t usually leave comments after I read posts but it’s a rather funny tale: I am planning a visit to Taj so I goggled ‘least busy day of the week to visit taj’ and your blog popped up. After I read your post about your visit to the monument I loved your clicks so I decided to stick around a bit. And as I read this post I realized Elise just visited you. We are ‘Instagram buddies’. What a small world. Anyhow, best if luck with your move to Italy. Although you seem like you don’t need luck one bit 🙂

    • Dani says:

      No way! It is a small world huh? Thanks for reading and commenting! I’m so looking forward to Italy even though I know it will be a lot of work to get set up and get the kids adjusted again. Have fun at the Taj! When are you going? (and make sure to visit the view from the opposite side of the river, you don’t have to go to the moonlight garden to see it, you can just walk down the road, the view will be a little less than perfectly symmetrical but the drive through the village to get there is worth it)

  4. […] Hot Pot: Danielle’s blog combines thoughtful writing with gorgeous, wish-I-was-there photos, particularly photos of chai wallahs in Old Delhi. Not quite a food blog, […]

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