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Photo Essay: Mumbai From A Balcony

20/12/2015 8:24 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST
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Craig Boehman

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A street photographer at heart, I chastise myself when I don't get out enough in Mumbai to photograph its people and places. But with a new building going up within shouting distance of my balcony, I'm rediscovering India -- from 10 stories high.

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It's not easy to escape the noise and potential eyesores connected with new building construction here in Mumbai. Nearly every building I've been in has a view of some new construction happening nearby, a testament to an incredible infrastructure growth rate of more than 5% each month over the past decade. This isn't a bad thing for a photographer, especially one living so close to the action. These snapshots were taken when the workers started putting up the bamboo scaffolding more than 100 feet off the ground.

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It's amazing watching these workers as they climb out on these bamboo poles. Safety gear is minimal (what are hardhats?) and it's easy to understand why this is such a dangerous occupation given the standards of safety. In fact, according to statistics cited in a 2012 piece in Construction World, Indian construction workers have the most dangerous occupation in all of India -- and the highest global accident rate in the industry -- with 165 in 1,000 workers reporting injuries on the job.

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I shoot all my pictures in RAW format and prefer processing them in black and white. This preference was established back in my school days when I had access to a dark room for developing black and white film and prints. My affinity towards monochrome is also strong because I feel there's a potential to open up intimate moments by eliminating the distraction of colour.

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When there's a theme tying images together (like this collection featuring shots from balconies) the choice between colour and black and white comes down to the overall look of the image, first and foremost. The minimalist image above featuring a man strolling through what appears to me to be computer wallpaper, was an obvious candidate for colour processing.

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But there's more to the balcony view than the new building going up. There are the streets below, which are at times spectacular from a bird's eye view.

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Due to space limitations and sometimes the summer heat, some residents sleep outside on their rooftops. And in the above image, I chose to showcase the colour of the blankets by processing the rest of the image in black and white.

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The above scene was shot off my living room balcony. When I looked at the initial results, I realised the gaping space in the middle could be filled with something else if I wished to venture into the realm of political art -- which I think I accomplished quite well by adding a parachutist sporting a giant American flag dropping out of the sky. Absurd, but fun!

Check out more of Craig Boehman's photography on his Flickr account.

This article appears in the Digital Journal

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