From dazzling high rises to bustling streets, Bollywood’s home base is at once overwhelming and fascinating. Get acquainted with Mumbai through your camera by heading to these street photography spots. By Eshita Srinivas
Mumbai’s allure lies in its ability to seamlessly weave several livelihoods, cultures, people, cuisines, even architectural details into its fabric. Century-old establishments perfectly complement neighbouring modern discotheques here. In fact, in just a few minutes, you could go from bar hopping or savouring Parsi food at an authentic restaurant to wading through busy markets and packed train stations.
Add to that a thriving film industry and a population that stands at a little over 20 million, and you’ve got yourself a region that’s bursting with character. This makes Mumbai perfect for street photography. That said, discovering all the little stories the city of dreams has to tell could easily take up to a month unless you know exactly where to look. Grab your camera, we’re tapping into the best spots to head to for the most intriguing shots.
We’re starting this list out strong with a market that’s favoured by most photographers. Chor Bazaar is a vibrant flea market, one of the largest in the country, and offers antiques, second-hand goods, and other trinkets. Crowded streets snake past old-world buildings and shops proudly displaying vintage telephones and old Bollywood posters here. That, along with the sea of people and moods here makes it ideal for portraiture, especially black and white shots.
The market, whose name translates to “thieves market,” is believed to be over a century old. Originally, it was reportedly called Shor Bazaar, “noisy market,” but the “shor” was switched to “chor” due to the British being unable to pronounce the former. Eventually, stolen goods made their way into the market and the bustling space is often recommended by tour guides. Throughout the day, you’ll find plenty to capture here, however, head to the place as early as 9 am for less busy backgrounds.
This popular locality in the city is dubbed the “queen of the suburbs,” and is a more modern departure from the vintage canvas of Chor Bazaar. Known for celebrity homes, a host of upscale shops, and quirky cafes – there’s a myriad of different backdrops to explore here.
The most popular of these, amongst photographers, is Bandstand Promenade, a walkway by the ocean that’s frequented by families looking for a break from the hustle of life, joggers getting their day’s goals sorted, and couples seeking a romantic, quiet spot to enjoy together.
You could spend a day here capturing the moods and sensibilities of each, from dawn to dusk. Walk to Bandra Fort and you’ll have the iconic bridge Bandra-Worli sea link and mighty waves serving as your backdrop. Another popular area is Bandra Talao, which hosts a ton of pigeons.
Home to the Koli people, one of the oldest fishing communities in the country, this village is another photographer-favourite spot. A world away from the glittering clubs and high rises of Mumbai, this region is underlined with brightly-coloured homes, narrow streets, and the flurry of fishermen going about their day, locals passing by, and children enjoying a game of street cricket.
The village has been around for over 800 years, and the Koli people will take you through their unique way of life that’s remained unaltered through this time. Capture all of these moods and stories by heading here early in the day, when the fishermen head out for their first catch.
A quick drive away from the fishing village is this iconic spot that makes for the quintessential Mumbai shot. The century-old monument once served as the entrance point to India for the British. Today, it forms the backdrop of several photographs, from amateur to professional. The tourist attraction is bustling with ice cream and street-food vendors (vada pav, anyone?), balloon sellers, and more! That, combined with large crowds, sea views, and the constant flurry of activity makes for very intriguing shots. As with most places, head here early to beat peak crowds and get in some aesthetic shots of early birds and vendors going about their day.
Another popular walkway by the ocean, Marine Drive is a three-kilometre stretch that simultaneously hosts fitness freaks on a jog, couples on a romantic walk, locals looking for some quiet time after a hectic day, newcomers to the city looking for their go-to spot, and tourists taking all of this in.
The spot also has street vendors offering hand-held bubble blowers, balloons, and other trinkets and many people grab a roll or sandwich from nearby restaurants to enjoy at Marine Drive with the ocean breeze whipping past their hair. This makes for a laidback shoot, whether you head here early in the morning or late at night. The latter, however, also opens doors for interesting light photography shots.
Close to the Gateway of India is this UNESCO World Heritage Site. Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus (CST) is one of Mumbai’s most popular and recognisable spots and is the city’s main railway station. Gothic architecture overlooks a sea of people from all walks of life going about their day. If your aim is to capture the hustle culture of Mumbai, there’s no better place to do it than here. Right outside the station are streets dotted with hotels, restaurants, shops, street stalls, and more. Drop by early and spend time exploring the entire station, albeit the guards might stop you from snapping the railway tracks, before heading outside.
This 22-acre pottery colony is located in Dharavi, believed to be one of Asia’s largest slums. A maze of narrow lanes dotted with fresh-of-the-wheel earthenware, this part of the city might not be the most popular of the others on the list, but it deserves a visit. Capture the process of master artisans transforming clay into bowls, plates, little lamps, and vases.
The potters are quite friendly and will gladly take you through the intricacies of the process, which makes for unique mood shots as well. Explore every alley and you’ll eventually end up at a few street snack vendors that you can capture and grab a bite from, especially if you’ve been exploring different parts of the city for a while.
Popularly known as the world’s largest laundromat, Dhobi Ghat demands that you turn your shutter speed up by a lot, so you can capture droplets of water and foamy soap as the laundrymen beat clothes against the concrete wash pens to clean them. The maze of colourful, clean clothes and the constant activity of clothes being washed make for the most stunning captures. Not to mention, you’ll find many fellow photographers and locals alike quietly observing the rows of clothes being washed. Head here early to get time to experiment with frames. You don’t have to pay to enter this space.
Featured and hero image: Ganesh Vanare/Instagram
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