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Another London Series | The People Of Shepherd's Bush Market

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continued from here

I turn my attention to the people. If you take my skin colour and match it with the rest of the population milling about in Shepherd's Bush Market, it'll probably be close to the average. Brown.

As a brown-skinned and clearly Indian-featured woman, I should blend in, but I stand out with my camera and attire - just as it was in Brick Lane. I document the reactions to me and my camera - and suddenly I'm the subject - a change from the usual routine of being the observer, the photographer.

Some men wave and strike a pose.

Another London Series | Shepherd's Bush Market

Some shyly wave, and then blush furiously.

Another London Series | Shepherd's Bush Market

Another London Series | Shepherd's Bush Market

"Don't kill him with your camera, now!" joked a black man watching me click this sweet Sikh shopkeeper.

I click a shop sign while the Sikh owner watches me with a smile.

Another London Series | Shepherd's Bush Market

"Give me a pound"
"Excuse me?"
"Give me a pound", he repeats.
"Because you clicked my shop sign" he grins.
I give him a look, shake my head and smile that says "nice try Mister" without saying it aloud. We both know the other is Indian. I walk away, as he laughs.

Some others deliberately saunter into the frame and pretend to be nonchalant about it (a typical behavioural trait of Indian men)

Another London Series | Shepherd's Bush Market

Yet some others are unaware of me - too drunk to notice, too taken by the glittery pawnshop.

Another London Series | Shepherd's Bush Market

I notice an elderly gentleman watching me from a distance, for the fourth or fifth time. He seems to be appraising me - perhaps curious, perhaps suspicious; I cannot say. He himself looked a bit out of place in this setting.

Another London Series | Shepherd's Bush Market

But the women are different. They do not want my camera on them. Some turn their backs on me, a bit arrogantly at times.

Another London Series | Shepherd's Bush Market

Some look away deliberately.

Another London Series | Shepherd's Bush Market

And some just go on with their business even though they know I'm clicking them - which is both a relief (after the men's reactions) and a bit unsettling at the same time.

Another London Series | Shepherd's Bush Market

She looked up at me once and I smiled at her. She just went back to her work. I could have been invisible.

But some women tear out of the frame! I had to put away the camera and reassure a couple of very scared hijab-wearing young women that I did not take their picture, that I was only clicking the signboard above their heads. I have to repeat myself a couple of times, gently, firmly, asking them not to worry. I do wonder what scared them so much. It couldn't have been me, they were only threatened by my camera.

As I walk out of the market, I hear two men calling out to me in Hindi in that leering way that only Indian men of a certain type can.
"Kya baat hai badi photo le rahe ho!" (What's with all the photography, then?! - loosely translated and said in a leery tone)
Hello?! Oh Hello!
I pretend not to hear and decide it's time to go home.

On the bus back (I live a few miles away), a small, scared looking Bangladeshi man hesitantly approaches me. In faltering English he asks me why I took a picture of him in the market. I say I'm not sure I did.
"Are you from TV?", he asks, looking extremely worried.
I say no.
"Then why you take picture of me?"
"I don't think I took a picture of you specifically, but I was clicking the market, I do these things..."
"You click why?"
"I click London because I like it"
He finally relaxes.
"Where will these photos go? Print?"
"On my blog, my website"
"How can I look at it? I want to see because I think you click me and I would like to see my photo"
"I can give you the website address if you want"
He breaks into a smile. "Yes please"
"Do you have a piece of paper?", I ask as I pull out my pen.
He rummages through all his pockets and finally hands me his oyster card. Thankfully my pen is a Sharpie. I scribble the url down and hand it back to him. He takes it, tries to read it aloud "ffll.... OK, thank you very much".

Dear Bengali gentleman, I don't know why you were so worried. I went through all my pictures carefully and you were nowhere in them. Sorry!

13 comments so far:

Bird in the Bush said...

Lovely pictures and lovely piece. Come back to W12 soon!

Cedric P. said...

Hah I like your subtle humour. The conversations decsribed in the end are very entertaining. Why was he so scared of you?

SloganMurugan said...

It's good to see you include people in your photograph. And do it more often!

Rahul Saha said...

Great pictures. All the cloth makes for lovely colours.

Bim said...

I like your story about the Bangladeshi man. I also really like the shot of the sikh man in the clothes shop. You are quite the documentary photographer. I'm thinking would these market shots stand out more if in black and white? Perhaps.

Anonymous said...

The photographs I like, but your narrative gives them that super final polish.
Its a fascinating insight and I'm totally intrigued. By your subjects' reactions... but even moreso by your own feelings. How did you feel? Were you self-conscious, uncomfortable, or what?
Or did you become so absorbed with the photography that the rest didn't matter?

Urban Orienteer said...

Just read the piece on Londonist and popped by to have a look.

Cool Blog and Photos!

Looking forward to seeing more soon.

Flaneurbanite said...

@Bird In The Bush: Thank you! I certainly will :)

@ Cedric P.: Thank you. I don't know why he was so scared! As a friend later commented, perhaps he was an illegal immigrant and afraid of turning up on TV. But I have nothing to prove that! Perhaps I just look scary!

@SloMo: Thank you, but I do that all the time! Just that my last few posts have been more architecture/place-focussed :)

Flaneurbanite said...

@Rahul Saha: Thank you! It was quite a riot of colour and texture, indeed.

@Bim: Thank you so much! You know when I uploaded my shots, that was my first thought too (that I should perhaps have clicked in black and white). I do think you're right. Maybe I'll go back again and shoot BnW... :)

Flaneurbanite said...

@fotdmike: Thank you so much - that's quite a compliment. To be honest, I wasn't entirely comfortable here - I felt watched, appraised. I feel like that all the time when I click in India, but it was different here. I did feel like much more of an outsider here than I've felt elsewhere in London, or anywhere in India. That sense of complete absorption with photography - no, it was missing in Shepherd's Bush Market. And I honestly think that reflects in the pictures - I was too distracted to do proper justice to them.

Flaneurbanite said...

@Urban Orienteer: Thank you so much! Glad you liked it, do drop by again. :)

Anonymous said...

In a rather selfish way I think I'm rather pleased about that for there are a couple of local communities (I suppose you could call them "ethnic") that, much as I would like to, I'm reluctant to visit because I fear I'd be far too self-conscious... er... "out of place" sort of thing.
Having watched other photographers "do their stuff" I was beginning to think I was alone in this. I think in my case a part of it is feeling uncomfortable in myself, and the other part is not wishing to inadvertently cause offence through unfamiliarity with the community's "customs".

And much of what you said struck a resonance with me in a strange sort of way. Thanks so much for sharing that.

Flaneurbanite said...

@fotdmike: I have clicked in Brick Lane before this (as an example) and although it was clear that a few elderly gentlemen did not quite approve of me, and that I was receiving a bit of well, "extra" attention from some of the younger men, I did not really feel the way I felt clicking Shepherd's Bush Market.

One of the reasons I can think of, in retrospect, is that this market feels very isolated once you're inside, even though it's sandwiched between two very busy main roads. Also, the urban fabric of the market is very different from the rest of London - more disconnected from its surroundings. I sensed a bit of hostility and suspicion in the people I was aiming my camera at, and that's certainly one of the things that made me acutely conscious of myself - something that is not amenable to good photography. The women's reactions made me wary of causing offence - especially the point where those two young hijab wearing women literally ran out of my frame and I had to pacify and reassure them.

I think I didn't do a good enough job of merging with the community that I was hoping to click. And that shows in the pictures.

I'm glad I could connect with your experiences as a photographer, though. Thanks for sharing.

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