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Home > Travel > Destinations > Capture the cultural charm of Kolkata at these street photography spots
Capture the cultural charm of Kolkata at these street photography spots

From lanes dotted with colonial-era structures to alleys brimming with old-world sweet shops – the city of joy boasts of a certain charm that few others in India can lay claim to. Immortalise all that Kolkata has to offer and more by heading to these street photography spots with your camera of choice.

Kolkata – with all its historic churches, vibrant temples, and colonial mansions – is steeped in nostalgia. The city has a poetry-reading, chaa-loving reputation – underlined by a certain intellectualism courtesy of the many popular literary figures, including Nobel laureate Rabindranath Tagore, who called it their home.

That said, this old-school atmosphere is offset by its growing young population who occupy the string of new restaurants, live-music bars, and retail shops that continue to crop up every other month. Combine this with its expansive street food culture (jhalmuri, anyone?), grand festivals, vibrant yellow taxis, and quirky murals and you’ve got yourself a photographer’s dream canvas. If you’re in the city of joy with your trusty camera, here’s all the best spots to hit up.

These are the best street photography spots in Kolkata

Kumartuli

 

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Featuring a kaleidoscope of colours – this part of the city is famed for its sculptors who create stunning idols from scratch. Brimming with models of goddesses, historical figurines, and life-like animal statues – this traditional potter quarter has many stories to tell. A popular photographer choice is to capture artisans as they bring lumps of clay to life in their workspace.

This includes the movement of paint over the pastel figures, the emotions flitting across the faces of the creators, and more. You could also walk through the lanes, noting the shift (or similarity) from one space to another and zooming in on the twinkle in every passerby’s eye as they take in the sights. Given the nature of their work, right before Durga Puja (or during) is the best time to head here.

Prinsep Ghat

One of the most recognisable parts of Kolkata – and perhaps the most referenced in pop culture – Howrah Bridge is a sight to behold. The massive steel suspension bridge over the Hooghly river finds itself in most carefully-curated photographs of the city. Come dawn and dusk, the Prinsep Ghat, which the bridge overlooks is brimming with fishermen in vibrant boats, couples hoping to get a front-row seat to the sunset (or sunrise), and spiritually-driven individuals keen on washing away their sins. Naturally, there’s a myriad of moods to capture while here. Head here early to beat the crowds and don’t be afraid to hop on a boat yourself for close ups.

Rabindra Sarani

 

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Reportedly the former residence of Rabindranath Tagore – hence the name – Rabindra Sarani is perhaps the most recommended street photography destination in the city. Considering this bit of history, it’s no surprise that the spot is dotted with luxurious residences with a tinge of yesteryear colonial character.

Its lanes, meanwhile, are lined with shops offering everything from sandesh and chaa to attar and ayurvedic medicines. These are further complemented by old-world trams and vibrant yellow taxis. There’s scores of people and street animals going about their day here and the hustle makes for some stunning shots. Not to mention, if you’re in the mood for some light painting, this is the place to be post dusk.

Mallick Ghat Flower Market

No street photography tour in a city is complete without a quick visit to its traditional flower market. And this particular one is reportedly one of the oldest in the country – first established in the mid 1800s. Come morning, this century-old space is flooded with the most vibrant collection of florals – many of which are later exported to New Zealand and Amsterdam, amongst other places.

Hues of red and green are interspersed with blue and yellow tarps over makeshift shops here. And if there’s one word to describe the atmosphere, it’s chaos. These factors appeal to photographers who capture vendors going about their day, dew on the flowers, instances of haggling, and birds who watch it all unfold from a vantage point. It’s easy to get lost in the chaos, so be sure to chart some time out before heading here.

College Street

A popular 900-metre long street in the central part of town, College Street is known for being the go-to spot for a book. In fact, this is reportedly the largest second-hand book market – not just in India but the world. It’s also been around since the 1800s. Naturally, there’s a dizzyingly large array of literature on display here – with stacks upon stacks atop tables, shelves, and even the roads.

You could capture the shop owners looking for their next sale or eagle-eyed shoppers hunting for their desired title. But that’s not all that the place has to offer – it also comes with iconic eateries offering devilled eggs, chicken cutlets, coffee, and legendary educational institutions. There’s also an art studio and museum located along this space. Each of these house the most eclectic set of individuals – locals to tourists, making for a truly unique experience.

Mechua Bazar

 

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This popular fruit market – the largest in West Bengal – is known for its vast range of produce options. Vibrant and fresh, every morning sees cartons of mangoes, apples, oranges and more. You name it, the market has it. Large trucks bring in the day’s offerings and the space is at once cacophonous and charming. While here, you could capture the spirit of bargaining, the dew on the produce, the many moods of the vendors looking for their next sale, and more. Walk through the narrow lanes here at a leisurely speed, exploring every nook and corner for the most unique set of shots.

Sun Yat Sen Street

A local-favoured spot for both food and photography – this street is picturesque to say the least. Home to the city’s Chinese population, it’s one of the few spots in town to get authentic fare like steamed pork buns and dimsums. Vendors perched on the road offer everything from sausages to steamers. There’s also a few mahjong clubs and shoemaker shops around. Head here early, around 5:00 am, to really get a taste of the hustle and capture people digging into a Chinese breakfast early in the day. You could also explore the different shops open for business, especially when the dawn’s light hits them in different ways. Spending time here is like stepping into a whole new world, just a bit distinct from the general aura of Kolkata. Don’t miss out if you’re in the city.

Image: @_surajbjee_/Instagram

Eshita Srinivas

Eshita spends her days writing, rewriting, and thinking of things to write about. In the little time she has left, she daydreams about going on a solo trip across Asia.

 

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