A penny for his thoughts

Apr 15, 2012, 11:09 IST | Team SMD

Photographer Chirodeep Chaudhuri's exhibition, The Commuters, attempts to document "Mumbai's faceless working class". He tells Sowmya Rajaram what the 50-odd portraits of men sitting opposite him in the first class compartment mean

How did the project come about?
It came primarily out of a sense of terrible boredom during commuting. After I moved to Thane in 2001, and began to take the 10.03 local daily, the idea of capturing, in portrait form, pictures of those who sat opposite me, began as a whim.

I wanted to visually resolve the problem of Mumbai’s working class, that goes beyond the cliché of say, the mill worker. The train compartment became the place where I thought about it. 

I began to shoot almost everyday on my journey from Thane to CST and back, to capture the bubble people create to pass the time — either by fiddling with their mobiles or taking a nap, or even staring blankly into space. The photos in this collection were taken over the last 18-odd months.

How did the subjects react?
No one reacted, really. I used a small point-and-shoot camera. In fact, the first shot of almost every guy I shot was of him looking directly at the camera, after which he got on with his life.

What was your approach?
I clicked according to rules I set for myself. I would only do pictures only of the men, who, by sheer coincidence, happened to occupy the seat in front of me. I would only shoot while sitting, to ensure uniformity of point of view. If I didn’t find a place to sit, too bad, I wouldn’t shoot that day.

At: Curator’s Gallery, Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Vastu Sangrahalaya, Fort
From: April 17 to 29

To get a copy of the limited-edition book, The Commuters, containing 98 images, mail c.chirodeep@gmail.com 

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