(All images copyrighted by Manu Thomas)
Eric’s Note: Manu Thomas is a street photographer from Mumbai, India who has captured a colorful, playful, and multi-faceted vision of his environment. In a feature according to Nick Turpin, Manu also started off as a watercolor painter:
“While searching for camera and photos, I happened to hear the term street photography for the first time and came to know about some amazing street photographers and saw some wonderful photos. I got hooked up to street photography very soon and it became my passion ever since. I want to continue doing painting, but photography is my biggest passion right now”
Manu: I started pursuing photography seriously by the end of 2007. Almost all of my photos are taken from Mumbai, its various suburbs, city and seaside. I consider myself to be extremely lucky to have started photography in this city. Compared to other south Indian cities where I’ve been to, Mumbai is very energetic, fast, but extremely chaotic. It got everything to construct excellent photographs, but the elements are scattered all over the place. Its colors, forms, textures are all hopelessly jumbled up. It encompasses slices of lives from every part of the country. It contains all kind of people and classes from all over the country.
Ever since I started photography, I’ve been trying to understand the complexity of Mumbai, thinking of how to portray this great city, maintaining its complexity, preserving its uniqueness. I’ve been less successful in this respect. The city has been pushing me to its outskirts, relatively quieter seaside and suburbs, where I’ve had more success, probably because it kind of resonates with the backgrounds from where I come from (I am from the southern state of India, Kerala). After a lot of struggle with chaos, I’ve decided to keep working from the outskirts, without worrying too much and let my understanding, matured with time, take me towards its core.
People in Mumbai are extremely cooperative. Except for two or three instances, I never had any sort of difficulties in the past 4 years. Only frustrating thing about people is they are just too eager to have their photos taken. They often stop what they were doing and pose for photo, which is very disappointing. Taking photos of kids is a major challenge. Almost always I will be persuaded by nagging kids to take pictures of their groups and individual photos. Then they all want to see their pictures appearing at the ‘back of the camera’. ( One of my friends disappoints kids by using film camera :) ). They draw a lot of attention from all around and it could get embarrassing sometimes. But it is fun most of the times. Usually I hang around until no one bothers me anymore and look for photos.
Sometimes people tell me not to take their photos. If there is something worth capturing, I will try to reason with them, saying, “I am doing this for hobby / exhibition, not for newspapers”. If they are still not willing, I respect their wish and move along. A smile and a mild acknowledgment by slightly lifting your camera can do wonders while you are working on streets. All that people want is respect. If you respect them, they will respect you back.
Local trains in Mumbai provide great opportunity for photos. Since I use train for my commute to office and back, sometimes opportunities present itself and sometimes I will have my camera ready with me.
I want to expand my ‘search for life’ and its documentation to other parts of the country as well. I am longing to see it with my own eyes, take a small slice of it with my own finger and preserve it for future. All I am interested in is the underrated ‘ordinary moments’ of everyday life, staged on an ever changing backdrop, which could become really valuable as they disappear into the past. I want to fit the land and its people in the same frame, their lives and their environment often intertwined, one completing the other, building or destroying the other.
Rest of the series by Manu Thomas
Make sure to check out more of Manu Thomas’ work on his Flickr.
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