Visiting the market at Chandni Chowk in old Delhi was like stepping back in time and into another world. The sights, smells, and sounds are enchanting. Every way you turn will fill your senses with magical colors and views. In spite of all this, the biggest treasure you’ll discover in Chandni Chowk is its people. Saying they are friendly is an understatement. The people here love to meet visitors, share a tea, have their photos taken, and look over your work on the camera’s LCD screen. Their character made a wonderful subject for photography, capturing the human side of this 17th century market in Old Delhi that time has left behind.
The Market is packed, with every nook and cranny filled will food piled high, silks, books, jewelry, perfumes, leather, fabrics. Small side streets bring you other sections of the market where book binders, paper workers, tapestry weavers, woodworkers, and just about every other profession. Little has changed here for decades, with the grit of the rundown town mixing beautifully with the activity of the scene. The narrow streets create wonderful streams of light that highlight the scene with a perfect old world atmosphere. Change your viewpoint to capture the sights missed by the ordinary eye. Peer around corners for doors of brightly coloured peeling paint that look as if they haven’t opened in years. Imagine the millions of footsteps that have walked the market since it began. The same paths you now step upon, the footsteps of people long forgotten in a place that never changes. These thoughts and this place were very inspirational for photography! I tried my best to capture at least part of the emotion of this magical place.
At the end of Chandni Chowk sits the majestic Red Fort. Built in 1648, it was the home of India’s Mughal emperors for close to 200-years. The palace is surrounded by high, red sandstone walls, who’s curves and lines are open to many creative interpretations from traditional to abstract. The architectural design of the Red Fort was innovative for the time, aimed at showcasing a mixture of Mughal, Persian, Hindu, and Timurid influences.
Old Delhi has a long and interesting history. It was once an area that covered 1,500 acres, surrounded by fortifying walls of 26-feet in height and 12-feet wide and impressive gates that carefully guarded who entered the city. Today, not much of the walls remain, but you can still see most of the 14 gates, which help you picture what a sight walking up to the old city must have been like. Old Delhi’s main street is Chandni Chowk. The street is crowded, rough, and beautiful at the same time, full of life at every turn. Look up, bend down and create a whole new world view.
The columns, domes, and arches rise up from the square, blending seamlessly as the Jama Masjid mosque reaches for the sky. This was a nice place to explore, stepping back to capture a grand, wide angle shot or moving in closer to capture the intimate details of the craftsmanship. Standing beneath the interior arches as light tunnels through, lighting up their beautiful inlays. If you’re lucky to be there when special occasions take place, the square in front of the mosque fills with people there to pray. Get up high for a shot looking down on a scene which is truly spectacular. Stand in the square at sunset, look up at the building as the sun spills a wonderful, soft, orange light onto it.
I appreciated the Red Fort, but the highlight of this journey was by far the Chandni Chowk Market. I had been scheduled to fly out of Delhi the next day, and after a full day of shooting I was so moved by the place that I rescheduled my flight to give myself another full day of shooting. Many of these photos were captured on that second day! All-in-all, it was not only a fantastic place for photography, but also a very special place to visit and experience. The warmth and friendliness of the people is both hard to convey with words and hard to document with photos. I would highly recommend visiting in person! Delhi is a big, crazy, chaotic city. But