Kolkata…India’s cultural heart
Kolkata (formerly Calcutta) is the capital of India’s West Bengal state, originally founded as an East India Company trading post, it was India’s capital under the British Raj from 1773–1911. Today it’s known for its grand colonial architecture, art galleries and cultural festivals and is regarded as India’s intellectual, artistic and cultural capital.
It is one of India’s largest cities with a population of around 15m and one of India’s major ports that is centred on the banks of the river Hooghly.
Kolkata… Street Photography on Steroids !
The Best Locations for a Kolkata Street Photography Workshop
This is a traditional area and one of the most fascinating areas to explore with many potters making sculptures of their god idols along with other figures for the various festivals that take place in Kolkata each year. Its an extremely busy area and worth wandering down the main street and its many ally ways especially as it gets closer to each festival with the biggest being Durga Puja . You can watch and photograph crafsmen build the goddess Kali from a straw frame and then cover them with clay extracted from the river before ritually immersing them in the river Hooghly during the amzing Durga Puja festival every late September / early October.
College Street Book market.
One of the worlds largest book markets and a paradise for both book lovers and street photographers located in the center of Kolkatas literary crowd is a must visit location for the street photographer with rickshaws, Tuk Tuks and taxis weaving thru the narrow streets ferrying people and delivering books and stationary. You’ll discover hundreds of both old traditional book stalls along with many makeshift stalls made from bamboo and canvas.
Apart from taking some great photographs here Ive also added to my book collection on most visits here with recent purchases of books with Ragu Rai’s work.
College street is definitely the best place for street photographers to practice and hone layering.
Whilst photographing the streets take a break in the world famous Indian coffee house in College Street with its charm from a bygone era filled with college students and literary intellectuals and the odd book buying tourist.
College street doesn’t normally get going till around 11.00 am !
One of my favourite areas for a Kolkata Street Photography workshop with never a dull moment with Chai tea stalls, the odd cow, countless rickshaws, old yellow ambassador taxi’s and a traditional market selling fresh goat meat, chicken and fish.
If you want a decent break from the street head over to The Elgin Fairlawn Hotel for a cup of tea and cake. It’s a place of peace and tranquillity just a few meters from the street.
Based in Galiff Street the market is a once a week affair every Sunday stating at around 6.00 am when traders set out their stalls . It’s a great location but get their early as by 9.00am its so busy you can hardly move due to the amount of people either coming aout as a family or bartering to buy their favourite pet. Its also worth walking over the bridge where you will see street tatooists inking locals.
Youll see a huge number of pets for sale from puppies, pigeons, parrots, hens and parakeets alongside flowers, pot plants, bird cages and street food.
Mullik Ghat , Mud wrestlers and The Flower Market
I’ve grouped these three locations as they virtually run into each other. Make your way to the Armenian Ferry crossing and Ghat and from there walk towards the Flower market where you can explore the Ghat and photograph locals as the wash in the river Hooley with the backdrop of the magnificant Howrah Bridge. Explore all the little avenues that run off the flower market where you will find religious temples and Sadu’s.
In the corner of the Ghat you will find mud wrestlers with them practicing twice a day but be prepared they always ask for a donation if you would like to photograph them in action.
Walking on you can explore under the road bridge where you will find more flower sellers , street barbers and fruit traders.. This is definitely a must visit.
Koley market…. Vegtable Market
Koley Market is located very near Seldah train station and is predominately a wholesale market which you must to get to by first light as by midday it’s a lot quieter . Its quite a tough place to photograph but the rewards for the patcient are worth it. The main market hall is a little on the dark side but great photographs can be had on the outer walls that are both gritty and colurful. Also take time to explore the surrounding lanes that are a little less busy and take time out for a great cup of chai tea and biscuit from one of the many local vendors as you watch and photograph the may lorries unloading their goods and being carried to market on the heads of local workers. Another one of my favourite locations but the trick here is to select your location, blend in and wait for the reactions to happen.
Dalhousie square is one of the business areas of Kolkata and also a place for great street food. Don’t turn up till at least 12.30 am and by 2.30 its almost too busy to photograph.
Head to Dacares Lane the main foodie road with a multitude of street vendors to both have a great snack lunch with locals and to capture some great street photography in Kolkata.
This is Kolkata’s local fish market building with a famous clocktower on one corner although once inside the building you will see a thriving market in other meat products including goat, chicken and mutton. It’s a pretty raw market and you can take some great documentary street photographs as traders sell to the public.
Why come with Shoot the street….
- You’ll be taken and shown the best locations in a small group
- You’ll recieve an honest critique of your work
- You’ll shoot on a one to one basis with Mark on a regular basis
- Youll be in a small group mixing with like minded fellow photographers
- You’ll have a great adventure going to places off the beaten track
- Your street photography techniques will improve
- You’ll gain invaluable advice and tips and on a daily basis
- You’ll be staying at local hotels sourced and used by Mark
- It doesn’t matter your level, both professional and amature photographers shoot together
- You will come back with some amazing photographs
Take a look at some of out testimonials to hear what people say…
Where we stay and why
I was first introduced to The Excutive Suites by The Hope Foundation over seven years ago and have been staying here ever since. Its located virtually opposite the Tollygunge Golf Club and is in a safe secure area. Its not really a hotel more a homestay as Rupa and her family occupy the property with 7 bedrooms and a nice meeting area on the top floor.
I stay here not because of its location but because of the incredibly friendly service I received from Rupa and her family.
There are some great street photography locations locally with my favourite being a small market for locals selling everything from fresh meat to lovely fresh fruit and vegetables on a daily basis. I’m reliably informed that the chef Rick Stein filmed an episode on Bengali food here !
Great places to eat
Although Kolkata is known as the Street food capital of India and we do often eat on the street I can really recommend the following places
Dollys Tea shop.. If you want a great cuppa from 1st flush darjeeling to the finest Assam or just a great cup of English breakfast tea served in a fine bone china cup all for just around 100 rupees !
Silver Screen, A great restaurant near the Tollygunge Golf Club used by many locals that apart Dalhouse Square
from serving great food has glass cabinets full of old film and cine cameras. Average price of a dish is around 300 rupees.
Barbeque Nation , Park Street
I first visited BBQ Nation in Guwhati, Assam and then Varanassi and now Kolkata. Ive never had a bad meal. Ok it’s a chain but the food is great and you can eat as much as you like for a fixed price
Mocambo Restaurant, Park Street Area
Defo my favourite restaurant in Kolkata with a great atmosphere and nice leather chairs.
Every time I’ve been here I have the Chateaubriand and a Carlsberg smooth beer . Considering how lovely the place is the meals are around 300 rupees with the chateaubriand being just 450 rupees.
Located near the Park Hotel in Park Street this is a great place to grab a spot of lunch. Made fresh in front of you as you wait they do both meat and vegetarian but my personal fav is the chicken Kathi Roll. A great lunch that will fill you up for under 100 rupees.
Dalhousie square is one of the business areas of Kolkata and also a place for great street food. Don’t turn up till at least 12.30 am and by 2.30 its almost too busy to move. Dacares square is Kolkatas foodie area with many local business people choosing hear to take lunch on the street
Getting Around Kolkata
Trams , The Metro, Yellow Cabs and Uber.. def worth downloading the Uber App as the cabs are so cheap compared to Europe and the app will take you door to door.
Festivals in Kolkata .. The Best Times to Visit
- Saraswati Puja (Between late January and early February )
- Dol Purnima (March)
- Poila Baisakh (April)
- Nabo barsho (Mid of April)
- Rathyatra (Late June or early July)
- Durga Puja (September – October)
- Laxmi Puja (October Every Year)
- Kali Puja (October-November, 2 weeks after Laxmi Puja)
- Bhai Phota (October, 2 days after the celebration of Kali puja)
Kolkata Photography Book.. coming soon…. Are you interested ? let me know and Ill add you as one of the first to be told.