Text & photographs by Karan Kapoor; Curated by Madhu Kapparath
This work from my archive is about passing worlds, about a time gone by. It is also connected to my youth. I had an Anglo-Indian girlfriend in Calcutta (now Kolkata) in the early ’80s, so I was going to the city a lot and I got interested in the community. It was around the same time that I met a friend of my mother’s, the legendary photographer Mary Ellen Mark. She was a big inspiration. She gave me a brick of Kodak Tri-X black and white films. In those days, every film roll was like gold dust. In Bombay (now Mumbai), I did a piece about places where Anglo-Indians lived, in Andheri and around Lovers’ Lane, Byculla. Later, I was in Ooty working on a film and looked up on Anglo-Indians there. So it was a gradual process.
I became interested in this older generation, in their way of life (oh, their etiquette!); they, sort of, felt left behind. I would spend days with them before picking up my camera. Back then, whenever I went to someone’s house, the most interesting thing I did was to look at photo albums. I saw pictures of Bombay going back to the 1950s, the Marilyn Monroe look-alike contests, the railways and such stuff.
The other thread is photographs I clicked in Goa. I had been going to Goa with my folks on every holiday since I was 12. We had a shack on the beach called Love House in Santo Vaddo, Baga. Later, I began to travel there during the monsoons, taking pictures of fisherfolk and festivals. I loved the way of life there.
Though I developed an interest in photography during my school days in England, it was with the advertising photographer Adrian Steven that I learnt the ropes. He had a darkroom in his flat in Breach Candy, Mumbai, and taught us to process and print black and whites. I was looking at the silver gelatin prints made for this exhibition, its grain and the rich blacks, and the slight imperfection, which is important. When I clicked these pictures, I wasn’t thinking, ‘ah, a great frame’. It just happened. When one is young, one isn’t self-conscious and has the freedom of adventure and risk.
Presented by Tasveer and curated by Nathaniel Gaskell, the exhibition of photographs by Karan Kapoor titled Time & Tide opened in Mumbai at TARQ on September 23 and will then travel across the country.
In Picture: Archie Archibald and ‘Chicken’ George at Tollygunge Home, Calcutta, 1981
In 1932, Archie (left) was the manager of Flurys, a cake shop in Calcutta on Park Street. When you walked into Flurys you just knew you were in a place of aristocracy and among the crème de la crème. After Independence, Archie lost his job. He sold his last possession, a Dalmatian dog, for Rs 30, and said: “You know my dear boy, obligation and poverty are very grave crimes.”
Lady Wellington Home, near Bangalore (now Bengaluru), 1985
Daphne Sampson, winner of the Marilyn Monroe look-alike contest, 1956.
Mr Carpenter, Tollygunge Home, 1981
I used to spend many an afternoon with Mr and Mrs Carpenter. He would play the banjo while she danced.
Dona Rosa, Loutolim, South Goa, 1994
I often used to travel to Loutolim on my Royal Enfield to meet our family friend Dona Rosa for lunch. She had lived in Portugal and spoke Portuguese. Her handicapped cook prepared the most amazing meals.
Emiliano’s son, Loutolim, 1994
Emiliano has a beautiful old Portuguese villa in Loutolim where his family has lived for generations. He is a musician and performs for tourists at hotels every evening. His children are musicians as well.
At the Three Kings Festival, Chandor, South Goa, 1995
These poor boys did not seem happy to be chosen for this ‘privilege’. It was hot and they had to wear these gowns and ride a horse in a procession. One of them was even sick!
A Christmas Angel, Loutolim, 1994
A child dressed up for one of the local church festivals. I used to spend many nights as a guest of the cartoonist Mario Miranda, which let me explore Loutolim—a town that seemed to have stood still in time, like RK Narayan’s Malgudi. Here, I would walk to the local tavern and see the world pass by.
The Rachol Seminary in Rachol, Goa 1995.
The young seminarians are actually singing a pop song!
About the photographer
Karan Kapoor is a London-based photographer who, after a start in photojournalism, moved into advertising and has worked on multiple high-profile campaigns for major brands. He has been exhibited at The Photographers’ Gallery, London and the Royal Academy of Arts, among others. He won the PDN Photo Annual award 2013 in ‘Stock Photography’ and was among the Lurzer Archive’s 200 Best Ad Photographers 2016-17.