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Old Delhi


Old Delhi is both an awful and a fascinating place. Awful, because of the crowded streets, the density of traffic, dust and endless noise, making this urban environment at its worst an impossible place to enjoy a wander. Fascinating, because of its many shops, stalls and bazaars, its wonderful life which has disappeared for decades from western urban landscapes: the street workers, the density of its population, its lanes, colours, textures, smell of spices, the thousands of porters walking around, its secular culture and its attractive power. It took me some time to accept Old Delhi. At first, I didn’t like it because it had all the ingredients that I don’t really like about India. But I felt that there was something unique in its intense life. The possibility of capturing it was fantastic. The opportunities to take photographs were countless but difficult to catch, so crowded and lively were its streets. Then the more I visited it the more I got addicted to it. I needed to come back to bathe myself in its ancient life, in its atypical and great mess. I needed to be in contact with the crowd. Each of my visits were short. I usually wandered for two or three hours, no more. After that I was just exhausted by its environment.
Old Delhi is a place where a multitude of street workers, food sellers and restaurants, rickshaw drivers, porters surround thousand of stalls and many bazaars: A one hundred year old market and business area where many workers do a hard job for a few rupees a day.
Morning and late afternoon were my favourite times. It was also the best time to capture Old Delhi’s harsh light. Mornings were quieter, as most of the shops and stalls open late, usually after ten o’clock. The streets were busy with people waking up and cleaning themselves. Street workers waited for their first customers. Masala tea sellers were already busy serving a few glasses to some customers wrapped in their shawls. Restaurants got organised for the day endlessly making chapatis. Boys and teenagers played cricket in the empty streets. Then the more the day went on, the more the crowd invaded its streets. So this kind of hive of activity were alive again until night comes.