Capturing Daily Life In Hyderabad With Fujifilm GFX50R

· 6.March.2019

When I got invited by my friend Kelly to come and visit India I immediately took that opportunity and went! She lives in Hyderabad, the “Silicon Valley” of India.
A lot of Western software and other big companies have their residence in that very fast expanding city.
The contrasts couldn’t be bigger, with stylish modern glass and concrete buildings, surrounded by dusty and chaotic streets and slums. I was only interested in the life on the streets.

I like to connect with the people I photograph first, but I don’t speak a word of Telugu and most of the people I photographed didn’t speak English, so I had to use gestures and kindness to communicate.
Because of the language barrier most of these photos have been made within seconds or maximum a couple of minutes after I spotted my subjects.

I wanted to travel light, with absolute minimal gear and maximum picture quality, so I packed my GFX50R along with the GF 110 and the GF 23 mm. As a backup I took my trusted X-T20 with the XF 18-55. The GFX50R turned out to be the perfect camera for the street portraits I had in mind.

Fishermen cleaning fish at a street market. GFX50R – GF 110 mm – ISO 2500 – F 11,0 – T 1/250 sec.

At a market place my attention got drawn by these fish sales men. You select your live fish from a big water tank. After weighing, the fish gets a couple of hits on the head to be sedated. Immediately the scale of the fish are scraped off, or the skin gets removed at the customers preference. The fish is still alive and quite often resisting. The fish’s head gets chopped off, guts removed, packed and sold.

Tea and candy vendor. GFX50R – GF 110 mm – ISO 125 – F 2,0 – T 1/250 sec.

These tea vendors are situated in every street of the city, working in a very confined stall. Here you can buy hot chai, which is very strong black tea with ginger and cream, and all kinds of sweets. Most of these chai vendors start as early as 07:00 am and close after 11:00 pm.

School security officer. GFX50R – GF 110 mm – ISO 100 – F 2,0 – T 1/750 sec.

Hyderabad has a lot of schools. Private schools are gated with security personnel at every entrance. This gentleman was very serious about his job and I couldn’t convince him to have his portrait photographed by me due to our language barrier. I remained at his vicinity and one of the, luckily for me, English speaking mothers who just dropped of her daughter asked me what I was trying to do there. After explaining her, she addressed this guard. He agreed on having this photo made, but was still very suspicious about the entire process.

Street sweepers cleaning the streets in the morning. X-T20 – XF 18-55 mm – ISO 200 – F 5,6 – T 1/550 sec.

The city of Hyderabad doesn’t have a cleaning service like we know in the Western world. People come out in the morning with a little plastic bag with the garbage from the food they cooked the night before and just dump it in the streets wherever they want. After a couple of days the entire street is filled with the smell of rotting food. Once a week a sweeping team clean all the streets and surroundings. It’s quite a dangerous job because they are in the streets with often heavy traffic. All the sweepers are women. And one man, who clearly is the boss, collects all the garbage in a trike with a big container on it. After cleaning,  the streets look clean, but that only lasts for a couple of hours till people start throwing their garbage again.

Gardener at work. GFX50R – GF 110 mm – ISO 100 – F 2,0 – T 1/500 sec.

The gardens in the gated community I stayed in are very well maintained by the garden staff. They start at 07:00 am, sweeping the fallen leaves, spraying the gardens and everything necessary to keep the gardens in a lush state. They take a break of a couple of hours around noon and continue afterwards till about 08:00 pm. After that most of these people have to commute by bus or motorcycle for one hour or more to get to their homes.

Carpenter and his apprentice. GFX50R – GF 110 mm – ISO 640 – F 2,0 – T 1/250 sec.

Calling this guy a carpenter is an understatement. He carves the wood with love into the most elaborate furniture.  Chairs, tables, cupboards and more become little works of art through his hands. He allowed me just one photograph when he was taking a little break on one of his chairs.

Hairdresser’s salon on the street. GFX50R – GF 23 mm – ISO 100 – F 4,0 – T 1/280 sec.

This “salon” is situated next to a dusty sand road, underneath a tree on that very long street in the middle of nowhere.

On the right side of the hairdresser there was a community of people who work in construction. They come over with their families from all over India to work in one of the many construction sites in the city. They get food and lodging and minimum wage, just about enough to buy a pack of cigarettes a day, so to speak. They are poor people but consider themselves lucky, they have a job, food and a place to stay. The women stay home in their barracks with the children, while most of the time their men work 7 days a week for months. But even these people like to have a nice haircut.

Shirt shop at the night market. GFX50R – GF 23 mm – ISO 3200 – F 4,0 – T 1/50 sec.

While I was really satisfied with the GFX50R’s performance at day I really fell in love with the results delivered at night. Crispy images, even in low light conditions. I didn’t pack a tripod and photographed handheld, even on low shutter speeds.

The photo above was lit by the small LED light that lit the merchandise.

Big Biryani restaurant’s kitchen. GFX50R – GF 23 mm – ISO 6400 – F 4,0 – T 1/9 sec.

Biryani is the local specialty, it consists of a bottom layer of mutton (lamb) stew covered with rice and topped with spices. Also available with chicken or veggie version.

Unnecessary to say it was very hot in that kitchen. I couldn’t lean against a wall to make this shot because the walls were very hot, so I used a breathing technique to be able to shoot this handheld at 1/9 sec… They just put a fresh pot on the fire to cook…

Fish cook on the street. GFX50R – GF 23 mm – ISO 3200 – F 4,0 – T 1/125 sec.

This fish cook is very famous and people come from far to eat this delicacy. He created this  delicious marinade he marinates his fish in before he deep fries it in this pot over high heat.

Distinguished gentleman. GFX50R – GF 23 mm – ISO 3200 – F 4,0 – T 1/125 sec.

This gentleman visited his son’s banana shop on the market place in Charminar after his evening prayer. The market place was almost empty…

Gentlemen discussing politics (I guess). GFX50R – GF 23 mm – ISO 6400 – F 4,0 – T 1/55 sec.

Although I couldn’t understand a word they were saying, they obviously didn’t seem to agree on the subject. The left man tried to convince the right man, but the right man was only amused.

Flower merchants leaving the flower market. GFX50R – GF 110 mm – ISO 100 – F 2,0 – T 1/2200 sec.

They buy their flowers at the big flower market and sell them at their little shops spread out over town. He apparently was quite happy with his “catch”.

Flower merchant at the flower market. GFX50R – GF 23 mm – ISO 125 – F 4,0 – T 1/250 sec.

Can one put more joy in a smile than this?

All photographs were made handheld, without tri/monopod, nor flash, with available light only. Velvia Film Simulation with very minimal personal LR tweaks.