Home / Mint-lounge / Features /  Photo Essay | Caught voting

Devi Bai, 79, has been voting from Bidar in Karnataka all her life. Forced now to use a walker, she had to be escorted to the polling booth on 17 April by her grandson, and was dismayed to find that it was in a building without a ramp.

A wall in Kolkata sports a graffiti cartoon of former chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee declaring that the party (Communist Party of India—Marxist) will try to win in 2026.

Harsha Vadlamani, a freelance photographer from Andhra Pradesh, photographed Devi Bai on polling day in Bidar. The second photograph is by Soumya Sankar Bose. These photographs are part of a project by online publication Scroll.in and social photo-sharing application Instagram to document the ongoing general election. The project is funded partly by Instagram.

“Bidar has a disproportionate number of Sikhs compared to the rest of Karnataka," Vadlamani says. “Two Sikh gentlemen were guiding her (Devi Bai) to the correct booth, but because she could not hear very well, she insisted on going to the building with the ramp. They had to shout to her and explain that she had to vote in the next building."

These and other images, all taken on mobile phones, have been contributed by 11 photographers so far. The aim of the project is to capture the diversity of the election exercise and take images that may not make it to print or television. The team uploads around 10-15 images daily on Instagram.

“I told photographers on the team that the best photographs are not inside rallies, but on its peripheries," says Ritesh Uttamchandani, a photographer with Open magazine, and one of the two project curators. “It is pointless to take photographs of Sonia Gandhi’s face, because everyone gets those. It’s about the little dots you connect to each other to get a larger idea of how the elections really work."

While the initial plan was to cover six-seven large states, it expanded rapidly as photographers heard of the project and volunteered their services. The project has covered 15 states so far.

The photographers upload the images in real time after a discussion with the curators. “One aspect is the discipline of shooting," says Prashanth Vishwanathan, the second curator. “The way you fill a 35mm film differs from how you use the medium format. You have to think square."

The process of approaching a story also changes, with some saying the phone gives them more access. Arkadripta Chakraborty, who has covered the North-East, says it works both ways. “When I was shooting (at the India-Bangladesh border) in Tripura, shooting with an SLR would have been difficult," he says. “But in Assam, which is more well-informed, people were asking me who would pay me if I shot such an important time on the phone."

“We want the photographers to go deeper into storytelling," says Vishwanathan. “We ask them to find out who these people are, what they do, how their loyalties might be shifting. What does almost a billion people voting look like?"

Mridula Chari is a staff writer with Scroll.in.

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