portrait of a laundry worker at the dhobi khana in cochin © Hamish Scott-Brown

Portraits in the Dhobi Khana – Kerala

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“The pictures are there, and you just take them.”

Robert Capa (Magnum)

Equipment: Fuji XPro 2 , 35mm f1.4 , 18mm f2
Location: Kochin, Kerala – India
Photographic Journey: Photographic Journey to Kerlala TBC

Some destinations are just perfect for photography.

Kerala in Southern India offers just that. 

Ideal as an introduction to the vast subcontinent of India with a friendly and less chaotic, more laid back style of living.  Beaches and beach life, simple village life, the lazy backwaters by rice-barge and the tea hills of Munnar in the mountains.

 

This tranquil and laid back state of India is ideal as a photography holiday destination for singles and beginners alike.  You’ll be comfortably able to truly appreciate this beautiful state and soon see why they call it “God’s Own Country”.

Kerala for Photographers –

Travelling to the state of Kerala in Southern India, as a photographer looking for new and inspiring photographic opportunities is much more than a simple travel photography holiday but will offer you the prospect to capture the work, lives and industry of the people of “Old” India before it fully disappears because of modern development.

A case in point is a visit to the Dhobi Khana or community laundry in the city of Kochi, which was first established during the Dutch colonial period.

Here, everything is done by hand the sorting, the washing, the rinsing and the drying and then finally the ironing often by traditional charcoal irons.

Here and there you might spot the frayed lead to a new fangled electric iron being used by the most innovative artisan.

The Dhobi Khana is a temple of Indian organization with strict rules for efficient processing and use of the rough concrete cubicles, washrooms and field of washing lines.

Piles of dirty washing greet you at the entrance, where metal wheelbarrows scattered intermittently are parked against the walls of peeling orange paint.

Tamil laundry worker in a dhobi kerala ©Hamish Scott-Brown

The visit offers the opportunity to capture the portraits of the industrious Tamil laundry workers, a grey haired man wringing in a cubicle, a bare chested young man rinsing sheets, an elderly woman setting a billowing field of white sheets, another resting on the side of a damp concrete bath.

We are able to capture the lives of the people in their social context and tell the story of their hard labouring the humidity and heat.

The visit offers the opportunity to capture the portraits of the industrious Tamil laundry workers, a grey haired man wringing in a cubicle, a bare chested young man rinsing sheets, an elderly woman setting a billowing field of white sheets, another resting on the side of a damp concrete bath.

We are able to capture the lives of the people in their social context and tell the story of their hard labouring the humidity and heat.

Technical –

Using the new Fuji Xpro2 with a very basic lens set up, an 18mm f2 (28mm equiv) and the razor sharp 35mm f1.4 (50mm equiv) my advice would be as always to engage your subjects with meaningful conversation, get involved with what they are doing and be yourself.

I’ve always taught photographers looking to capture really honest portraits of documentary subjects to keep it simple and uncomplicated.

The camera is merely the device that captures what you are seeing, looking at or becoming involved in therefore use the time to build a story in your head of what you are witnessing. The XPro2 has, like other newer camera technology, a facial recognition software feature.

 

Amazingly accurate, this allows you to engage in your environment, take your eye away from the viewfinder and on this case at the Dhobi Khana, enjoy the experience of being a part of this truly lovely but humbling opportunity for any travel photographer on holiday looking to document a simple daily occurrence but capture a full story of images. The camera images were captured on the B&W Acros setting with a Y filter and then simply tweaked a little in Adobe LightRoom, adding some sharpness and a small amount of warm tone to the mid greys

Travel

I’m becoming a lover of Emirates amazingly good value (twice daily) Economy Class flights from my home airport base of Birmingham to Dubai.

 

From here it’s now possible to fly almost anywhere if you are heading East and Kerala is a short 3hr 40 min hop to Cochin from Dubai on the EK530, with a comfortable arrival into Cochin at 9am local time

enquire about kerala
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Hamish Scott-Brown

Professional Photographer / Co-founder & workshop leader