Widely varied narratives of the city of Mumbai converge on Everyday Mumbai’s Instagram account, founded and curated by Mumbai, India based photographer Chirag Wakaskar.
The first ever picture posted on the crowdsourced platform of Everyday Mumbai, on 16th July 2014, was that of a young girl washing clothes at a small body of water; her hair flowing wildly, birds hovering up in the sky above her and a huge smile on her face. The essence of the city, which is often warm and gritty at the same time, is amazingly poured into that photo. Over the last two years, Everyday Mumbai has grown phenomenally in its scope, diversity and popularity.
The photographs, taken by many different established and amateur photographers, are carefully curated by Chirag who had initially started documenting the city on his personal Instagram account. TFM caught up with him to talk about his relationship with the city and his role as Everyday Mumbai’s curator. Read on:
Were you born and brought up in Mumbai? What are some of your earliest memories of the city?
I was born in Baroda, Gujarat, but have grown up in Bombay. Baroda was very much a small city back then, and my earliest memory from there is going to school in a horse driven cart or ‘tanga‘ as it was called.
Moving to Bombay in the late 80’s was very exciting, particularly for the beaches. Juhu beach, for all the games and horse rides it offered, was almost a permanent weekend family destination. My earliest memories of the city also take me back to the Gateway of India and riding in black & yellow fiats with family during the monsoons. My family owned a Canon AF35M camera and I used to take a lot of photos with it, albeit mostly of my family. I have always been very curious about everything so I ended up spending a lot of time with books (World Book Encyclopedia mainly) in the well-stocked library at my school and then in college.
When exactly did you start documenting the city for your personal Instagram account? What were the stories you were looking at initially?
I had signed up on Instagram much earlier but did not use it much because at that time it looked like a space where people were posting either selfies or food photographs. It felt like quite a narcissistic space, and not something I was interested in.
Later on, of course, I came across several groups and photojournalists sharing street photography, photojournalism and documentary photography, and that’s when I started becoming more active and developed an interest in the medium. I took to my phone to break the monotony of shooting events and personalities. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular when I started; just whatever caught my eye was photographed using an old iPhone 4 that my brother gave to me as a gift. Before that, I had an android with an atrocious camera. So anyways, I started off with just walking around my own locality and ended up finding something interesting to photograph every now and then.
‘Everyday’ Instagram accounts have become a unique and in-depth way of looking at a particular place. Do you think Everyday Mumbai can change outsiders’ perceptions about the city?
I would like to think that the project has showcased a lot of things about the city. I have always avoided the usual clichéd photos of Indians taken by tourists. Everyday Mumbai has a unique blend of images that showcase the city as it is. The photographs from various parts of the city have been shared on the project, and I think those curious enough would like to visit those places to find out more about them.
Photographer Peter DiCampo (co-founder, Everyday Africa) had said this in a TIME interview: “That idea of the stream as the narrative, which is what most social media platforms are built to be, is interesting. The stream as a narrative form addresses the issue of representation. You scroll through the images and you see the problems and the positive stuff, side-by-side. It reminds people that all these things happen simultaneously. And that’s the part that we often forget.” Do you agree with this?
Yes. On Everyday Mumbai, I have consciously tried to create a mix of photographs which are of social relevance – be it about the environment or about taboo topics such as homosexuality. A lot of young people follow the project and they are at an age where they could just accept the ills of the society as it is. But through Everyday Mumbai, they would be encouraged to form their own opinions at least, and they might even take actions about some issues.
Also, I look for photo-stories where a photographer has gone beyond the usual newspaper photojournalism, social media stuff and existing quotes. I curate photos which reflect photographers’ personal thoughts and opinions.
I took to the phone to break the monotony of shooting of events and personalities. I wasn’t looking for anything in particular; just whatever caught my eye was photographed using an old iPhone 4 that my brother gave to me as a gift.
How has your relationship with the city evolved after you started documenting it?
There is always something or the other going on in the city, and I am forever curious to know what it could be. I think I began to appreciate the city much more after I started documenting it. I have been to quite a few cities in India but none quite feels like Mumbai in terms of how much goes on here because of the fact that almost everyone here has come from somewhere else.
What are some of your favorite places in Mumbai?
One of my favorite things to do in Mumbai is to walk on the beach, from Danda fishing village towards the end of the Juhu beach where a small naala (gutter stream) separates it from the Versova beach. I feel that beaches present a fascinating study of life, and the suburban Juhu beach is my absolute favorite. Some of the other places which I like to visit are Banganga Water tank which was built during the Shilahara dynasty in the Walkeshwar area, the 66 million year old monolith rock Gilbert Hill in Andheri and the Sanjay Gandhi National Park in Borivali which is basically a forest located inside the city!
I have been to quite a few cities in India but none quite feels like Mumbai in terms of how much goes on here because of the fact that almost everyone here has come from somewhere else.
Everyday Mumbai has also been a great platform for many upcoming/aspiring photographers in the city. Do you think that in some ways it has led to the creation of a much needed photography community in the city?
The idea is to build a strong community of photographers who can genuinely document our lives and times. The project has generated an interest in the city and its life, and there are many people interested in documenting it. I have had quite a few young photographers write to me about the project as it can give them an exposure. And I suppose there will always be some who merely seek social media glory and that usually reflects in what they write about the photograph.
On Everyday Mumbai, I have consciously tried to create a mix of photographs which are of social relevance – be it about the environment or about taboo topics such as homosexuality.
FEATURED IMAGE CAPTION:
A series of images curated by Chirag Wakaskar for Everyday Mumbai’s Instagram account.
All the images are curated by Chirag Wakaskar for Everyday Mumbai’s Instagram account.©
Chirag’s photograph is by Chou Chiang.©