The photographs contained in this post were taken in the Paharanj district in New Delhi in the Summer of 2016.
Paharganj is a district of central Delhi just west of New Delhi Railway station. Established in the 17th century during the reign of the Mughal Empire (1526-1857), today Paharganj is a place of budget hotels and basic restaurants. It is where domestic and international traveller’s on a budget stay.
Paharganj is a gritty, edgy place. Like similar areas in other major world cities, it’s known for budget tourism, petty crime, drug dealing and prostitution. In 2010, the area received a $800m face-lift ahead of the Commonwealth Games of that year but you’d be hard pushed to tell.
Despite the warnings of our hotel security to be careful on the streets at night, we experienced no serious problems. Just the opposite; a lot of good natured – sometimes bemused – encounters with locals. (That said, we – myself and fellow photographer Colin Paul – saw very few Westerners on the streets at night).
As with much of India, life in Paharganj seems very precarious for a great many people. Those working in hotels or restaurants are the lucky ones. Regular work in decent conditions. For most, scratching a living selling a single type of fruit or vegetable, repairing rickshaws and tuk-tuks on the street, altering clothes, and transporting goods on hand carts, etc. is the norm. Ad-hoc work offering variable income and no security.
Using a Fuji X-T1 on dimly lit streets at night meant operating at the camera’s limits as far as low light and autofocus performance were concerned. In other words, perfect for capturing the rawness and bustle of the night time streets.
Text and images © John Meehan 2016.