In Pics: A Bygone Era Of Lost People, From Karan Kapoor’s Darkroom
Lover’s Lane, Byculla, Bombay #2; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo courtesy: Tasveer) 
Lover’s Lane, Byculla, Bombay #2; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo courtesy: Tasveer) 

In Pics: A Bygone Era Of Lost People, From Karan Kapoor’s Darkroom

The Kapoors are so many and so much, yet they never cease to impress. Son of Shashi Kapoor and Jennifer Kendal, Karan Kapoor is an award-winning, internationally exhibited photographer with an unfairly short modelling and acting career. Based in London, Karan is in Mumbai for his traveling exhibition ‘Time & Tide’, hosted by Tasveer, featuring limited edition silver gelatin prints of his work from the 80s and 90s on the Anglo-Indian in Bombay and Calcutta, and Goan Catholics in an older, more Portuguese Goa.

Andheri, Bombay; Silver gelatin print; 1981© Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Andheri, Bombay; Silver gelatin print; 1981© Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Oh, I love the feeling of nostalgia. Remembering, you know?
Karan Kapoor

The air was thick with nostalgia at his exhibition: the walls of the gallery, the old-school silver gelatin prints, the faces, the mood and the man.

The Diminishing, Charming Anglo-Indians

I had a girlfriend in Calcutta who was anglo-Indian and so, I would go there a lot.

And so, at 18, Karan got his first taste of the allure of nostalgia: “The Tollygunge series was probably the hardest because I spend a lot of time and energy being them, making them feel like I was a part of them. I spoke to them, saw their family photo albums, asked what it was like in the 40s, 50s – what Park Street was like, what was Flurry’s like, the railway cantonments, the Marilyn Monroe look-alike contest.”

Stanley Peters, Bombay; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Stanley Peters, Bombay; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
I also used to play rugby from Bombay Gymkhana and we used to go to Calcutta to play Le Martiniere. Then, my mother did a film called 36 Chowringhee Lane in Calcutta. Then someone told me about Tollygunge home and that’s how the process started. I would go to Tollygunge and spend the whole day, then go the next day, the next day, the next day.
 Violet, Andheri, Bombay; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Violet, Andheri, Bombay; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Tollygunge, Calcutta #2; Silver gelatin print; 1981© Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Tollygunge, Calcutta #2; Silver gelatin print; 1981© Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
 Lovers Lane, Byculla, Bombay #2; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Lovers Lane, Byculla, Bombay #2; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)

What did he feel about intruding into people’s privacy? His photographs prove the existence of consent, and yet they’re gently candid.

“I always make a point of first knowing the people, then picking up the camera. You know, having a conversation, meeting them. You have to be curious, you have to be interested in their lives. Then you can pick up the camera. Only then will the photo come alive,” Karan advises, almost too modestly for the life he’s lived. 
Tollygunge, Calcutta #5; Silver gelatin print; 1980 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Tollygunge, Calcutta #5; Silver gelatin print; 1980 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)

Of Childhood Memories

The Goa series for me is very personal, very close, because I know most of the subjects very well quite well since I was 12-13. That picture of [Guy folding net], he’s my age. He must have been 16-17 when I clicked that. Now, he’s the local dada in the village! 
Joseph fixing a net on our verandah, Goa; Silver gelatin print; 1981 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Joseph fixing a net on our verandah, Goa; Silver gelatin print; 1981 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Confession at Rachol Seminary, Goa; Silver gelatin print; 1994 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Confession at Rachol Seminary, Goa; Silver gelatin print; 1994 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Father of the bride, Goa; Silver gelatin print; 1995 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Father of the bride, Goa; Silver gelatin print; 1995 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)

There’s a hint of sadness when he speaks of Goa and these people who were clearly more than just subjects in a frame.

We had a house in Goa. Since I was 12 or 13, we would go every Christmas. I knew the community. I’ve seen it change through the years. I never thought that I was documenting anything. Nobody knew things were going to change so much in Goa, but for, instance, the picture of the fishing boat coming in, that no longer happens. That part of my village no longer has fishermen. They’re taxi-drivers, work with tourist operators, they work in shacks. 
Baga Beach, Goa #3; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Baga Beach, Goa #3; Silver gelatin print; 1982 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Emiliano’s House, Loutolim, Goa #2; Silver gelatin print; 1994 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Emiliano’s House, Loutolim, Goa #2; Silver gelatin print; 1994 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Rachol Seminary, Goa #3; Silver gelatin print; 1994 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)
Rachol Seminary, Goa #3; Silver gelatin print; 1994 © Karan Kapoor. (Photo Courtesy: Tasveer)

It’s surprising when Karan says he doesn’t like to go to Goa anymore. It’s terrible, he says: “It’s not the same”. There it was: nostalgia.

So, what of Bollywood; any unfulfilled itches?

If someone asked me tomorrow to act in a film, I’d say sure! But I would still keep doing photography. I would never say no. I had such a great time when I used to act. I can’t dance, though. I’m a terrible dancer. 

With genetics on his side, there’s little doubt that will be a problem.

Established in 2006, Tasveer began as the first pan-Indian gallery dedicated exclusively to photography with Nathaniel Gaskell as its curator. It is also the only member gallery from South Asia to be a part of the Association of International Photography Art Dealers (AIPAD).

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