Mumbai photographer Hashim Badani has a knack for capturing transience.
His fascination with making the unknown seem familiar has taken him across the world and back, but it’s his attention to forgotten details that defines his work. This is most true when we take into account his view of Mumbai, a city that has transformed into the country’s sprawling financial capital in the span of a few decades. “Photography was the by-product of a need to share stories of the everyday,” he tells us. “I was very curious about Bombay, what it was and what it has become. Photography became my tool of choice to be able to tell those stories.”
Can you remember the first photographs you ever took?
I can actually! When I was 18, I used to live on an island called the Isle of Man in the United Kingdom. Every day, for half a year, I saw the sun set over the sea with the Irish and Scottish landscape in the distance. It was always melancholic and the need to document that is what pushed me to create my first image – with intent, but without the intention of being a photographer.
You have a long history with Bombay. What is it you’re trying to capture with your photographs of the city?
The change and that the fact that everybody has a story. What excites me most about Bombay and all great cities is how diverse and fascinating they are in their everydayness. When people from different backgrounds and places inhabit the same space, the outcome is culturally magical and distinctive.
You’ve been working on a book about Irani Cafes. Has the process of putting it together altered the way you would typically take photos?
As with any long-term project, it requires you to be patient. It’s important to keep going back to the same places and to meet the same people over and over. It means observing and being able to make images out of this continuous interaction. It is something I don’t have the freedom to do while doing travel stories, which take up the bulk of my time.
You seem to be drawn to places undergoing societal and cultural shifts. What is it about change that makes it so captivating to you?
That’s true, but it’s more obvious in my personal work. I am not a fan of change, but I think this is my coping mechanism. Every moment seems fleeting and there is an urgency to archive it.
Now that we’re all inundated with images, thanks to Instagram and the web in general, have you seen a change in the way you approach photography?
It has completely changed the landscape of photography. You are no longer constrained by editorial briefs or clients’ needs. Instagram has helped artists gain a unique voice and tell a story in the way that they would like to. I quite enjoy playing with Instagram stories. You are also forced to bring you’re a-game because you’re competing with millions of people.
Have you always gravitated toward candid photography or is this something that developed over time?
It began as candid photography and the need to be invisible in the image, but I have started doing fashion photography more often lately. I use the city as a backdrop quite a bit because I enjoy the blurring of lines, the serendipity you find between a partially controlled and real life setting.
When you travel, what do you take with you?
An iPhone to make images, a good book that is related to the place or situation (to lend perspective and inspiration), ID proof and money.
What’s your most memorable story of a shoot going wrong?
So many! Initially everything was exciting. It used to get me into all sorts of trouble. Someone threw a glass bottle at me for taking a photo of them in Saigon. Another time, I got arrested for suspected murder in an abandoned structure in Bombay. Perks of the job.
What motivates you to keep taking pictures?
It’s really as simple and selfish as the need to tell stories that matter to me. If you can influence or inspire people along the way, that’s a bonus.
Images by Hashim Badani.