Kolkata is one of the best cities in India for photography. There are so many photography clubs and associations, that one cannot imagine. I lived in Kolkata for 1 year, athough I don’t live now, I still miss it in many ways. Every Sunday, I used to wake up around 5 am in the morning and used to go to one of the many photowalks happening in the city. I was new to photography and was scared of doing street photography all by myself, but being in a group helped me to overcome my fear. If you want to join these photowalks, all you have to do is search in facebook and join these groups, they are free. Some of the groups I did photowalk are Calcutta Instagrammers, Calcutta cacaphony, Street and Model photography club, Streets of Calcutta, Clickers forum. These groups maybe active or closed or new groups may also have come up in recent times, that you have to check yourself. Even after clicking Kolkata for a year, I still haven’t been able to cover the entire city. Nevertheless, I have tried my best and have divided the city into three photography zones namely landscape, street and nature.
Prinsep ghat was built during the British era in 1841 on the banks of Hooghly river. It is a very popular spot among the youth in Kolkata. Every evening, hundreds of people gather in this ghat to watch the sunset. Boat rides on country boats are also available for tourists. The bridge which you can see below in the picture is called Vidyasagar Setu, which is the second longest cable–stayed bridge in India. There is also a railway station on the ghats of this river. The best way to reach this spot is to book a taxi, cab (Ola or Uber) or board a local train or bus from Sealdah station. If you want to search local train schedules, the website I visit is https://indiarailinfo.com/.
Mulllick ghat is located on the left side of Howrah Bridge, it is very old and dirty with people washing and bathing in the river. But, on particular days during sunset, it looks very beautiful as the yellow rays of the sun bouncing from the clouds turn it into a magical scene. If you are coming from Kolkata, you have to get down before the Howrah bridge or you are coming from Howarah, you have to get down after the Howrah bridge.
The ghats on the bank of Hooghly river is not popular like other ghats and is also quite dirty. It is only visited by few local people, nevertheless it offers some fantastic photographic opportunities. Visit it during evening to experience a gorgeous sunset. It can be reached by local train, bus or taxi.
Victoria Memorial is a large marble building in Kolkata, which was built between 1906 and 1921. It is visited by a huge number of tourists from India and abroad for its architecture, but during the evenings you can get some gorgeous sunset shots.
Kumartuli is a traditional potters colony in Northern Kolkata. Before the Durga puja festival, it is visited by a huge number of photographers from novice to professional, who take the pictures of idols being prepared. One has to go through a lot of narrow lanes, which houses the workshops of these potters. These potters work from morning till night and sometimes they barely get to sleep due to the huge workload. If are new if might be difficult to locate the workshop of these potters, so it is best to ask local people. There is a nominal entry fees of 10 rupees.
On the banks of Hooghly near Mullick ghat, lies a huge flower market bustling with activity from morning till evening. Local vendors sit by the roadside and sell different varieties of flowers. It is a very crowded and dirty place, so try to reach there early in the morning.
College street is located in central Kolkata and derives its name due to the presence of many colleges in that area. The street is approximately 1.5 km long and there are numerous small and big bookstores along its way. It can be easily reached by bus, metro or taxi.
Every Sunday morning, a huge number of pets ranging from puppies, ornamental fishes, rabbits, guinea pigs and different varieties of birds like pigeons, parrots, hen, parakreet etc are sold at the pet market at Galiff street. The market starts very early in the morning, around 4:30 am and there is a huge of people from vendors to buyers all trying to buy their favorite pet animal. If you want to do photography, try to reach as early as possible other it will be impossible as it becomes heavily crowded. You have to reach Shyambazar five point crossing first by bus and then walk towards the pet market, ask local people the directions if you get lost or you can simply get a taxi and reach there.
Maidan means open ground, it is a vast stretch of field that includes numerous play grounds like the famous cricketing venue Eden Gardens, several football stadiums and the Kolkata Race Course. It is the property of the Indian Army, so do not get carried away while doing photography as you may be asked to stop if they spot you. The best time to visit is to head early in the morning. GPS does not work properly in that area.
Koley market is located in Sealdah, right next to the George Telegraph Training Institute. It is a huge wholesale fruit and vegetable market. The inside is dark and dingy, full of chaos and mayhem and smells of rotten vegetables. But, if you are interested in photography, Koley market and its surroundings offer fantastic opportunities to capture people in their natural way. Sealdah is located in the centre of Kolkata and can be reached by train, bus or tuk-tuk. Just ask anybody and they will happily point you in that direction.
Kalighat is one of the oldest neighbourhoods in South Kolkata. It is densely populated and visited by a large of people due to the presence of Kali temple. The surrounding areas of the temple can provide great opportunities for street photography. There is also a red light area there, so be careful of roaming alone and prefer to visit in a group.
Tiretti Bazaar is one of those areas in Kolkata, other being Tangra, where you can still see the Chinese community. Their numbers have declined over the years, due to the lack of opportunities given to them by the government. They earn their livelihood by selling traditional Chinese food like momos, dumplings, wontons etc. If you want to eat Chinese food, you have to reach there by 8am, otherwise all the food gets finished.
Tangra is another area in East Kolkata, where people of Chinese origin have settled. One can spot a huge number of Chinese restaurants here. I visited this area one early morning and felt that it still has an old and rustic look to it. You will feel like that you have gone back in time while walking through this neighbourhood.
If you are into shopping and photography, new market near Esplanade offers opportunities for both. You will see heaps of colorful bags, shoes, clothing items and other accessories sold by roadside shops along with mouth watering delicacies. Only problem is the area is extremely crowded for composing a photo.
Hand-pulled rickshaws, yellow taxis and trams
The city of Kolkata has some distinct features that one can witness upon landing foot in the city. One of the striking features while roaming Kolkata streets is the presence of rickshaws pulled by hand. They are a cheap source of transportation, have in existence for over 100 years and are a source of livelihood for many people.
The yellow taxis in Kolkata form another of the distinct features in this city. These bright yellow ambassadors run through out the city carrying passengers from one place to another.
Lastly, trams in Kolkata form the third feature in this city. Tram system in Kolkata started in 1902 and is the only tram system presently running in the India. While visiting Kolkata, make sure you hop into one of these as you will not get this opportunity in other places of India. They are super cheap, less crowded and move slowly allowing to gaze the busy city life from the window.
Calcutta botanical garden
The Acharya Jagadish Chandra Bose Indian Botanic Garden, also known as Calcutta botanical garden is located in Shibpur, Howrah near Kolkata. It houses a huge variety of rare plants and specimens along with a Great Banyan tree is over 250 years old. If you are into nature photography, you should visit it.
The Agri Horticultural Society of India organizes flower show every year, which is one of the best in the country. During the show, along with flowers, different varieties of ornamental leaves and cactus are displayed. It is generally held during the first half of February (9 – 12), however it is best to visit their official website http://www.agrihorticultureindia.com/ for further information. If you are into flower and macro photography, this show is for you.
Central park, Kolkata
The Central Park situated in Bidhannagar is a large public park. It is also known as Banabitan. It is quite beautiful and has a small lake. If you want to take pictures of birds and insects, head out early in the morning around 7 am and you will be rewarded with beautiful pictures.
Santragachhi Jheel or lake is a large lake, located near to the Santragachhi railway station. During winter months, the lake attracts a large number of migratory birds like sarus crane, gadwall, northern shoveller, northern pintail along with many other local migratory birds. However, the lesser whistling duck is the most dominant species and you can see their nests in the middle of the lake. This lake has suffered from neglect by administration, however if are into bird photography, you may check this place it out. Take a local train from Howrah to each there.
When to visit
If you are a tourist, Kolkata can be visited all throughout the year, however during summer it tends to be very hot. If you live in Kolkata and want to do photography, the best time would be morning or evening.
If you’re interested in using my photography or article please contact me, I am also available for freelance work.