Loving Trains in India with a camera

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In my most recent column for Scroll.in, Camera Indica, I interview train photographer Apurva Bahadur.

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Travelling by train with all its jerks and lurching from side to side, with its frequent stops and noisy atmosphere, has long been one of the great romances of India. For decades, the express, freight, mail and fast passenger trains embodied both the power and the glory of India. The power to develop, move and grow an idea into a nation. And the glory of binding together myriad peoples and giving them a chance to have new ideas about their ancient territory.

The old-tech train may have been knocked off its perch in recent years by affordable, faster and more comfortable jet travel but for the majority of travellers, the train remains the best way to get from here to there.

Given its status as one of modern India’s most potent icons, it is a bit surprising that few photographers have made the Indian train their major subject. This is not to say that serious Indian and foreign photographers have not photographed life along the tracks or inside the bogies. But these are either one-off photographs or a time-limited project, and do not form their core body of work. Maybe because the train is so un-extraordinary, it is simply overlooked. Maybe those signs that blare “No Photography” at all stations damped the enthusiasm.

There is a group of diehards though, who are passionate about documenting India’s great world of railways and trains. They gather together in clubs all across India but connect through a matter-of-factly named online forum, Indian Railways Fan Club Association, where they enthuse about their train trips, fact-check technical minutia of engines, document the history of bridges and tunnels and report locomotive sightings. And of course, they share photographs of their favourite lines of track, stations and trains.

Apurva Bahadur, a technical writer for a multinational company, is a long time member of IRFCA and one of the Association’s most admired unofficial photographers. Bahadur posts his photographs regularly on his Facebook page with most receiving hundreds of ‘likes’ from photography and train enthusiasts all around the world. Camera Indica caught up with him recently at his home in Pune to discuss the mysterious and romantic art of photographing trains. [Full article and photos]

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