The Insiders: What Travel Photographers are Shooting in a Lockdown
“Stay at home. Don’t go out.” These are the words everyone is doling out right now. In fact, parents who once barked these instructions at their children, not too long ago, are probably on the unfamiliar receiving end of these orders during these upside down times. And the kids aren’t wrong. We all need to do our part in cutting the legs of COVID-19 so we can actually step out of the house again with unmasked smiles. However, instead of hurling around dogmatic phrases like surly prison guards, perhaps we should be saying things like, “Sharpen up a sketch pencil. Lay out a yoga mat. Or pick up a camera.” In troubling times, reaching for tools seems like a much better idea than pacing around our apartments like caged leopards.
Cultivating a sense of creativity during the pandemic is more than just the concept of keeping busy, it’s nurturing one’s sense of imagination, which seems to be a pretty useful asset during a lockdown. We happen to know a few photographers across the country, many of them who, up until recently, travelled quite a bit for their work. Now, even with their proverbial wings cut off, these photographers are still capturing remarkable moments in their lives, be it a striking scene on the way to get groceries or a mesmerising moment at home. Even when circumstances look as if they will constrain the way these creative folks express themselves, it appears to do nothing but widen their perspective and sharpen their focus.
[Photo above] “A father and son play on their terrace as dusk takes over the Mumbai skyline. Even amidst a national lockdown, the pandemic can’t stop this moment of quality family time.”
“It’s interesting to see how neighbourhoods change over time in this city. For somebody who has been born and raised in Byculla, much after it was “Manto’s Byculla,” the area has always been bustling with heavy traffic, a confluence of honking at the consecutive traffic lights, and the braveheart-bordering-on-dangerous jaywalker dodging the careless bikers whizzing past. I have always been petrified of crossing this massive road leading up to Byculla Bridge, and suddenly, it’s still, quiet, and eerily dystopian. I can walk across ten times, maybe even break out into a dance in the middle of the street, and it wouldn’t matter. This photograph was taken on a day Ma and I decided to venture out to buy groceries, and somehow I found myself missing the snarling traffic.”
“It’s a daily ritual for my dad and I to play Uno in the afternoon during the lockdown. My dog, Tequila, is very close to dad, so when we play he likes to snuggle up as close as possible to him. This day, he decided to be a prince and flop right in the middle of our card game. He got a nice little nap, and I got a rather useful card table: a win-win day in difficult times.”
“My 91 year-old grandfather loves spending his time listening to his Caravan radio and reading books. It’s been a bit hard for him to understand the seriousness of the current situation and he believes that the media is blowing the issue out of proportion. Except for the absence of his early morning and evening walks his daily routine is just the same as earlier.”
“Going out grocery shopping with my dad used to feel like the most normal activity. Now shopping for basic supplies feels like passing through some strange kind of war zone. Bustling streets have been replaced with a smattering of watchful eyes, masked faces, and gloved hands. The everyday has become surreal.”
“In this courtyard, it has become a daily routine for Bhola and Rakesh (pictured) . The avid readers sit a metre apart, their faces tucked behind scarves amid the current shortage of N95 respirators. They are among those desperate to be reunited with their families during these trying times, especially since they provide the only source of income to their kin.”
Shalini Siva Prasad
“Over the past couple of weeks I’ve taken a particular interest in a kite’s nest, nestled in the contours of a nearby transmission tower. It is a daily dose of positivity to see the baby kites grow.”
“Since there is nothing much to do, and hanging around outside is not advisable in these times, I often go for a walk on my building’s terrace. I can easily spend an hour out there. Sometimes I play hide-n-seek with my niece. Other times I take photos on my phone. Five days ago I saw someone standing alone on a neighbouring terrace doing the same thing as I was, killing time. We said nothing to each other, but we seemed to share a similar feeling as we watched the glow of twilight settle upon our strangely silent city.”
“During the lockdown I’ve been baking up a storm, from sumptuous chocolate cake to beautiful biscotti. I’ve always loved a good cheesecake, so I decided to try my hand at baking a sous vide cheesecake. With ingredients like cream cheese, sour cream, and a little bit of lime, this was surprisingly easy to put together with the method of preparation eliminating the risk of overbaking the treat. With a bit of soft, natural light, and some fresh berries and lemon slices, this creation added a pop of colour to what otherwise would have been a bland day.”
“The lockdown has posed a new dilemma for the Mukherjee family. In this time of limited groceries and dearth of fresh fruits, what do we feed Wingy?
Wingy, a raven whose family we have been feeding for some years now, doesn’t let the lockdown affect his routine. He turns up several times a day, waits to be served whatever is on the menu that day, and if we ignore him (or serve him vegetarian fare), he raises a cacaphony that rings through the silent, socially distanced neighbourhood until we get it right. On the other hand, we have had more time to work on our relationship, and I’m happy to say Wingy now trusts us enough to walk into our living room and share an evening snack together.”