Street photography is something of an urban fad today, a way as much for a newcomer to integrate into a city as for a long-time resident to rediscover a familiar landscape. The Photographic Society of Bangalore, which started off a few years ago by organizing street shoots in the belief that numbers are directly proportional to confidence, is now going a step further. In an effort to document the dynamic city of Bangalore, its members are undertaking photo projects of various hues. Its first such project, which took off in January, has four young men and women—all aged between 22-33 and employed with information technology companies—working their ways through the congested lanes around Avenue Road in Chickpet, one of the city’s oldest localities.

As Gitika Saksena, leader of the project, Shades Of Pete, explains, it isn’t just about walking into the pete (market) and taking random stills. “We work in pairs. While one of us talks to the subject, builds up a rapport and extracts his or her story, the other person shoots," she says. “Our way of working means we have to keep coming back to the same people. That is why, though this began as a three-month project, we think it might go on for a whole year."

Coffee drinkers, Avenue Road. Photo: Gitika Saksena

“See you at the Coffee Board van!" is a common refrain among erstwhile residents of the pete, who moved out as the area became more and more commercialized. Every Sunday, retired employees of the Indian Coffee Board operate a vending van on Avenue Road for their former clients at the Indian Coffee House outlet here which shut down years ago. Ask the regulars: They will vouch for the fact that a cup of filter kaapi is an excellent way to revive memories and replenish bonds.

Seetha Phone Company, Avenue Road. Photo: Gitika Saksena
Karaga at Tawakkal Mastan Dargah. Photo: Krishna Murthy

Always an ethnically diverse area, the pete’s spirit of religious tolerance is perhaps best exemplified by the 800-year-old Karaga festival, celebrated two weeks after Ugadi, the Kannada new year. Its chief player is a Hindu priest who, over the course of a night, walks a distance of 30km balancing the karaga, a pot suspended within a floral cone. Revered as an avatar of Draupadi, he visits major temples, garadi manes (traditional wrestling arenas) and the dargah at Akkipet, dedicated to Tawakkal Mastan Baba.

Karaga at Tawakkal Mastan Dargah. Photo: Ananth Shayan
Shree Hukmichand Khincha Balniketan. Photo: Gitika Saksena
Weavers of Cubbonpet. Photo: Krishna Murthy

The Photographic Society of Bangalore members working on the Shades Of Pete project are Gitika Saksena, Krishna Murthy, Sasikiran Angara and Ananth Shayan.