A Requiem to a Rickshaw Puller


Subhas, a hand pull rickshaw walla.

Subhas, a hand pull rickshaw walla.

Alou and I have traveled to Kolkata to visit with friends for a few days. I had some time yesterday to walk the streets with the Jenbei HD 600. I love Kolkata’s uniqueness, even within India. This city’s taxis are a different color (yellow) than other parts of India, it’s the last place in the world you will find hand pulled rickshaws, and the buildings have a turn of the century (19th century) colonial feel. Overall, it is a lovely city covered in years of patina.

One of the biggest shocks for me was that since my last visit here three years ago, there seems to be a massive decline in the number of pulled rickshaws. If you recall, I did a story on them a few years back. With my new found love of off-camera flash, I thought it would be fun to make a nicely lit portrait of a rickshaw puller.

This is the result. This is Subhas, a hand pull rickshaw walla from West Bengal. At least, I think that is his name. It was hard to tell, he mumbled, and I think he had a mouthful of paan. We hired him for an hour and paid him some extra. He was extremely cooperative and very willing to be photographed. In the end we had many people walk by and enter the frame. Some walked into the frame by accident, others on purpose. It was all fine by me. I wanted more than just a portrait. I wanted this to be a something special. I wanted the image to have the uniqueness of Kolkata. I hope I achieved that.




f/6.4, 1/250 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T2


f/11, 1/320 sec, at 16mm, 200 ISO, on a X-T2

Layer Your Image for Narrative Depth

Most of the time when photographers talk about layers in a photo, they speaking about postprocessing in Photoshop. In this post, I am talking about visual and narrative depth in an image. To make a photo visually appealing, you need to create a sense of depth both physically as well as narratively.

Given that most cameras do not have stereo vision and so by default shoot a two-dimensional image, creating a sense of depth has always been an issue for photographers. We are always struggling how to translate depth into only two dimensions. So we have to suggest at depth. We do this in a very simple way.

  • Example of lack of depth
    This valley is certainly dramatic and the side of the valley leading up to the edge of the frame does give it some depth. But look at the next image...

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Multimedia: The Pull Rickshaws of Kolkata

f/2.8, 1/40 sec, at 16mm, 1600 ISO, on a Canon EOS-1Ds Mark III

Last week I returned from Kolkata ( the city formerly known as Calcutta ), India. I actually didn’t go for an assignment or even to take photos. I accompanied with my wife who had business there and while in Kolkata we visited with some friends.  Yet, if truth be known, a photographer never goes anywhere without somewhere in the back of his mind the intent to take a few photographs. But,  photos were not the primary intention and thus have to take a back seat to other things this time. I did not go to Kolkata with the intent of creating a story on the rickshaw pullers, if I had, I would have spent more time developing a different angle on their life and work. Given my limitations I was still able to bring you this somewhat limited look at their unique lives. I hope you enjoy it and find it informative.

Please note: I have had several questions recently from some prominent photographers about why I choose to use SoundSlides Plus rather than some other software for bringing you these multimedia presentations. There could very well be something better out there and in fact, if I was incorporating video I would use something other than Soundslides Plus. Yet, given the fact that I am only using still images with audio I feel this is the best available at this time. Why? Because, it gives you, the viewer the option to simply view it as an automated slideshow or if you choose you can also view the show at your own speed using the left and right arrow buttons. You can also view each image using the gallery button. Soundslides Plus gives you the option, as with most video players, to view the slide show in full-screen. However, unlike any video, you can toggle the captions on and off.