The Amber Stepwell: The Progression of a Shoot

The Amber Stepwell: The Progression of a Shoot

The Amber stepwell and three local “models”.


Ever since I saw Ami Vitale’s Nikon video I wanted to shoot the Chand Baori stepwell in the village of Abhaneri. It is said to be the the most impressive stepwell in India. The problem is when you are working with a group of people (or your family), 70 km in India is a long drive for a photo. Two hours up and two back for want might be two to three photos. I thought I would go easy on my family and just go to the Amber stepwell here in Jaipur. It was the right choice. Today, God smiled on us.

We arrived to find three local ladies washing clothes at a deep-well hand pump. The local sari like costume these ladies wear make every thing they do look so graceful. After taking a few images of them at their work we came to the stepwell a few meters away. As I photographed it I realized it was missing a “human element”.  My wife suggested to ask the ladies back at the pump well if they would come and pose for us on the stepwell. Life is good!


The deep-well hand pump and my soon to be models.


The Amber stepwell without the human element.


Alou takes the ladies by the hand and leads them to their general positions.


Then we just let the ladies have fun. This is my favorite from the shoot.


More fun.


The ladies on another side of the well.

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About The Author

Matt Brandon

Matt is a Malaysia based humanitarian and travel photographer. Well known as a photographer and international workshop instructor, Matt’s images have been used by business and organizations around the globe. Matt also on the design board for Think Tank Photo, a camera bag manufacturer. In 2013 Matt founded the On Field Media Project to train the staff of non-profits to use appropriate technology to produce timely as well as quality images.


  1. Ian Mylam

    Wonderful photographs, Matt. The first and the last are my favourites. Particularly in the first image, the combination of subject matter, composition, colour and light is fabulous.

    • Matt

      Of course, I like those or I wouldn’t have put them in the post. But to me they lack the visual excitement of the stepwell and as such pale next to the ones of the well. But to each his own. If you like the first one, you might love next shot in that series of the lady that is pumping walking away with a large pot full of water on her head. Thanks for commenting Ian, always appreciate it.

      • Matt

        Oops!– I was still foggy in my head this morning when I read your comment (that and I am working off of a tiny 13″ monitor here onthe road) and I made the mistake of thinking the ladies at the pump well was the first image. Sorry, yes, I really like the first one as well. Now I am going to go have a cup of masala chai and wake up!!

  2. Petra

    I love it… the pictures and the story behind them!!!

  3. Jon McCormack

    Matt – I just love these! I’ve been coveting that step well too!

    • Matt

      Thanks Rosane, Petera and Jon for your comments. It is interesting to note, ( I should have wrote this in the post, so I will do it now) the guide really down played Amber’s stepwell. We almost didn’t go. He said it is nothing in comparison to the Chand Baori stepwell. But in debating if we should drive the 4 hr round trip, I looked the Amber well up on the web I knew I needed to at least visit it. Of course there was no way I would have known these ladies, in these “saris,” would have neen there and would be willing to pose on top of that. It just goes to show we have to take risks at time. Had we gone to Chand Baori my guess we nothing like this would have happened. Thanks again.

  4. Tim Steadman

    Very cool post…would like to know the story of how you guys got them over there to “pose”…as im sure it wasnt as easy as asking, hey ladies…mind coming over to the well to be in a few of my photos. Love those moments when the “models” are willing and able!…that’s why I never turn down an Indian with a cell phone camera wanting a photo of/with me. The first photo is awesome!


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