riteshuttamchandani

Ritesh Uttamchandani (@riteshuttamchandani) /riteshuttamchandani
From Amilo to Varanasi, on my way to the most photographed place in the town by the river - Manikarnika Ghat. My friend Anand Singh, a Kashi native, knew the person I was looking for and agreed to come along if and only if I didn’t mention to anyone that we had been to the cremation ghat. Anand’s wife doesn’t like it and puts him through a long cleansing process which he isn't fond of. But Anand is a celebrity in these lanes and soon we ran into many people who greeted him with a Ram Ram. A friend of his derailed our plan, insisting that we have some “liquour tea” with him. Nothing but black tea but made by a performative man who could have easily qualified as a bartender in an overpriced Bombay pub. Surreal is a mild word to describe my first sighting of Bache Lal Sahni. He looked a bit pissed but I concluded that years of chewing paan must have moulded his face into a grump. A group of men were carrying a loved one for cremation when Lal made his modest pitch - “Photo Khicha Lo” (get a photo done). He calls out to every such procession, each time with great success. After all, this is what his Albert Photo Studio specializes in - photographing the dead. Lal offered me a paan while I waited for the light to simmer down a bit. One of three brothers about to perform the last rites of their father signalled him with his left hand to come along. Bizarre that I had to butt in and ask them if they would be comfortable with me photographing Lal while he photographs them. Lal’s photos are mechanical and straight, functional like passport photos and he had to be available 24 hours since the ghat is never shut. For decades, Lal was the only photographer offering this service. As he aged, the younger lot came in. Retired now, he handed over the reins of his studio to his assistant. On our way back to his studio, decimating yet another pan, he reminded me, “I was the first one to do this, don’t forget”. Concluding photograph of a trio of portraits I made of people who court/use/suffer due to the “business” of death. Minor coincidence, that the protagonists are all from Uttar Pradesh!From Amilo to Varanasi, on my way to the most photographed place in the town by the river - Manikarnika Ghat. My friend Anand Singh, a Kashi native, knew the person I was looking for and agreed to come along if and only if I didn’t mention to anyone that we had been to the cremation ghat. Anand’s wife doesn’t like it and puts him through a long cleansing process which he isn't fond of. 
But Anand is a celebrity in these lanes and soon we ran into many people who greeted him with a Ram Ram. A friend of his derailed our plan, insisting that we have some “liquour tea” with him. Nothing but black tea but made by a performative man who could have easily qualified as a bartender in an overpriced Bombay pub. 
Surreal is a mild word to describe my first sighting of Bache Lal Sahni. He looked a bit pissed but I concluded that years of chewing paan must have moulded his face into a grump. A group of men were carrying a loved one for cremation when Lal made his modest pitch - “Photo Khicha Lo” (get a photo done). He calls out to every such procession, each time with great success. After all, this is what his Albert Photo Studio specializes in - photographing the dead. 
Lal offered me a paan while I waited for the light to simmer down a bit. One of three brothers about to perform the last rites of their father signalled him with his left hand to come along. Bizarre that I had to butt in and ask them if they would be comfortable with me photographing Lal while he photographs them. Lal’s photos are mechanical and straight, functional like passport photos and he had to be available 24 hours since the ghat is never shut.  For decades, Lal was the only photographer offering this service. As he aged, the younger lot came in. Retired now, he handed over the reins of his studio to his assistant. On our way back to his studio, decimating yet another pan, he reminded me, “I was the first one to do this, don’t forget”. Concluding photograph of a trio of portraits I made of people who court/use/suffer due to the “business” of death. Minor coincidence, that the protagonists are all from Uttar Pradesh!source: https://www.instagram.com/riteshuttamchandani

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