Kuber Shah’s photo project, Doors of Mumbai, revisits the city’s architecture that is oft-forgotten.
When photographer Kuber Shah explored the city on foot in 2014, he realised that Mumbai is elegantly dotted with elegant Gothic, and Victorian architecture. Since then, he has shot the Soona Mehal, Mumbai Samachar building, the Hurkisondas Hospital, Kapadia Chambers, Liberty Cinema, three-storied houses in Dadar Parsi Colony and Kothachiwadi among other important buildings. The result is a series of photographs on the city’s architecture called Doors of Mumbai.
With his pictures, Kuber, also a social media consultant, aims to make people aware of the architectural beauty around them, every time they walk past these structures. “Today, look around and you will see urbanisation — matchbox-sized buildings are accompanied by hoarding and cellular towers. Buildings with old architecture, however, are crumbling because of erratic laws and lack of funds,” he observes.
Although titled Doors of Mumbai, the 37-year old photographer explains that the name is only a metaphor. He delves deeper, “If you step inside these structures, you will realise that they hold a world within themselves, waiting to be explored.” The exhibition presents each structure with minimal background, without cable wires or hoardings vying for your attention. Kuber admits it was quite a challenge. “I spent a lot of time staring at these structures,” he laughs, adding, “I was always on a lookout to find this one spot that wasn’t marred by hoarding or marks. Once I found it, all I had to do was capture it.”
If there is one construction that remains a favourite, it is Jer Mahal, which houses itself in the noisy Dhobi Talao area for more than a century. “It has a European design, with gothic-styled windows. Then there are intricate carvings across the building. Today, this Grade III heritage structure may face demolition,” he rues.
It wasn’t all work for Kuber. He was witness to some warm hospitality when he explore Khotachiwadi. “I was in Khotachiwadi with some friends, taking images and we got talking to the people there,” he recalls. “People warmed up to us so much that we were invited inside their houses to sit, chat and take pictures. There was a Maharashtrian family, a Gujarati family and of course the Christians. But the best experience was towards the end where a local resident who runs a guitar school invited us inside and sang for us!”
Having photographed Mumbai for three years, he explains that his city will always have themes waiting to be explored. “This is the city of migrants, who have brought about so much of variety in architecture. For instance, if you look at the architecture in a village in Bandra, you will see that a Christian house has its walls in pastel colours, and a Muslim house may have their house painted in dark green or a light green shade. These diversities make the city.”
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