Calcutta photo tour

This photography tour lets you explore India’s most fascinating city

See Kolkata through a different lens.

Words by Ute Junker

Photos by

Originally published in Traveller

The locals at the Kolkata flower market love me. They smile as they greet me, they ask where I’m from – then they completely ignore me as I snap shots of them at work. I capture them dwarfed by huge piles of jasmine, fingers flying as they string the blooms together. I also capture them lifting huge poles laden with heavy ropes of marigold wreaths onto their shoulders.

It’s not really me that they love, of course, it’s Manjit. Manjit Singh, photographer and guide, is well-known in all of Kolkata’s most scenic – and fragrant – locations. He has spent countless hours here, chatting with locals and capturing them on film. Whenever he brings guests on one of his photography tours, the locals greet them happily and then ignore them, which is exactly what every photographer wants. I’m free to wander around, taking shots of people going about their daily business.

Later that day, when Manjit and I are relaxing over a cup of chai at his favourite roadside stall – having chatted with the old lady who runs it and admired her traditional jewellery – Singh tells me I’m not the first to make that observation. “What I can give you is invisibility,” he says. “I’ve been shooting in some of these areas for 15 years, the people are all used to me.”

Singh gives his guests a lot more than that. Although this professional photographer bills his tours as photography tours, and is happy to give shooting advice as required, what Singh really loves doing is giving his guests insights into the city that he loves.

“Being a photographer who is in love with the city, I was unhappy with the way that Kolkata was being portrayed in a cliched way, as a dark place full of slums. That wasn’t the city that I was experiencing,” Singh says. His tours are less about capturing the perfect shot and more about showcasing the city’s fascinating neighbourhoods.

“If you go the whole tour without taking a single photo, that’s fine too,” he says. “I want you to get under the skin of Kolkata, to have an emotional connection with the place.”

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