Twenty-three-old art-school graduate Niyati Upadhya set out to tell the stories of professions on the brink of extinction. The result was The Cult of the Street, a photography exhibition about bonesetters in the city.
“In Mumbai, stories of livelihoods are perennially teetering on the edge of extinction. These (stories) are sometimes poetic, sometimes dark, and always poignant. It is these everyday (hi)stories that I have tried to draw out through the show,” says Niyati The photo essay explores the antiquated methods and techniques used by the bone setters, says the artist, adding, “The bone setters’ clinics manage to thrive in the twenty-first century urbanity of Mumbai, somehow blending their shadowed pasts with the bright promise of the city’s future.”
South Mumbai special
The project that took over a year to complete, includes images and sculptures taken within the domain of bonesetters’ clinics around Marine Lines, Dharavi, VT and Fort, With Niyati finally zeroing on a clinic in Charni Road for the shoot.
“During my research, I got the chance to intern with a production house that worked on the promos for the launch of a channel. The promo was set in a bone setters’ clinic in Charni Road that I helped set up, which made for a good location to shoot as well,” informs the artist, about her debut exhibition.
Worth waiting for
Time played a crucial role in the process. “It was slightly difficult at first, as I was taking pictures in a clinic and the doctor and patients were very conscious of my presence. I had to make myself as inconspicuous as possible, so that I could get candid images,” she elaborates.
The exhibition is the first part of a larger series titled, The Cult of the Street. Niyati is looking forward to documenting the work of ear cleaners and barbers, soon.