Photography workshop at Sonepur Mela in India in November 2015



A week-long photography workshop in November 2015 at Sonepur Mela in India with In-Public photographer Maciej Dakowicz.

One of Asia’s largest cattle fairs. No tourists! An ultimate adventure!


23 – 29 November 2015



David Saunders –
Steven Reynolds –
Christopher Marsham –
Pawel Zdziarski –




Sonepur Mela

The Sonepur Cattle Fair or Sonepur Mela is one of Asia’s largest cattle fairs and is held in the Indian state of Bihar, in a small village Sonepur (Sonpur) near Patna. The fair starts on Kartik Purnima (the full moon day) in November and lasts for around a month. It begins as a religious Hindu festival with thousands of pilgrims taking a ritual bath in Gandak river, near its confluence with the Ganges, on the full moon day. Spiritual activities are the main point of Sonepur Mela for a couple of days. When all pilgrims are gone back to their towns and villages the religious event transforms itself into a large trade fair and amusement park.
Nearly all domestic animals are traded there – all breeds of dogs, camels, buffaloes, horses, birds and poultry. However, the area that attracts the biggest crowd is the one where elephants are lined up for sale and the mela is the only one where such a large number of elephants is sold. Apart from the animals countless goods and services are offered and traded, such as clothing, beauty products, food, electronics and cars.
Together with commercial activities there are many entertainment options available. A festive, carnival atmosphere prevails – giant ferries wheels, numerous rides, wells of deaths, circuses and various performance shows offer amusement for families, children, women and men.
The whole event continues for about a month and attracts thousands visitors daily.

More about the mela:

Maciej has visited the mela four times in four consecutive years (each time with another workshop group). He knows the place and event very well. Each time it has been a true adventure. This time it will be again a very memorable week.


Workshop Description

It will be a very practical workshop and there will be a lot of shooting every day. A very small group of max 4 participants means a high level of interaction with Maciej. You will be working in pairs changing “partners” after the lunch break. While shooting with Maciej you will have a chance to observe him at work, learn his techniques and tricks, and receive an instant feedback on your photographic technique. A special attention will be put on developing and practising “social skills” – an interaction with local people. You will not only be a fly on the wall hunting for decisive moments like Henri Cartier-Bresson, but also get really close to people, engage, talk and photograph them. Maciej is a very experienced travel and street photographer and you will learn a great deal of new things. In the evenings you will edit and discuss your freshly taken photos in the group together with Maciej. There will be plenty of opportunities to talk photography too. Maciej will also present several slideshow presentations in which theoretical and practical aspects of street photography will be outlined and discussed. All previous workshop participants found them very useful.
It will be a very memorable week that will change you not only as a photographer, but as a person too. You will return back home confident, inspired and motivated to keep developing as a photographer.


The participants of the workshop are responsible for all travel costs, including the visa, air tickets, food, accommodation and local transport. Luckily India is still a very affordable place to be and daily expenses on food and transport are well below £10. The whole group will stay together with Maciej in an affordable and clean hotel not far from the mela and rooms will cost below £20. The total cost of such an adventure (including Maciej’s workshop fee) should be around £1500 (when flying from the UK for around £500 and staying in the hotel for less than £20 per night).

Getting to the Mela

Maciej will help you organising your travel to the workshop. He will travel there by train from Varanasi a night before the workshop. The nearest airport is in Patna.

Previous Indian Workshops

Maciej currently lives in Mumbai. Before settling down in there he visited India more than 10 times, so he is very experienced at photographing in this country. He has organised and lead around 15 Indian workshops so far and they all have been very successful (not only according to the participants – Maciej thinks the same).
Please take a look at the reports from the previous workshops to understand how unique they are. There are many behind the scene photos and pictures taken by the students: Great memories!
Below are some of Maciej’s photos from Sonepur Mela shot on the previous photo adventures (each taken while shooting with a workshop participant) and during other visits to this fascinating metropolis.

An elephant diplayed at Sonepur Mela.
A well of death performance at Sonepur Mela.
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An elephant diplayed at Sonepur Mela. thumbnail
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A well of death performance at Sonepur Mela. thumbnail
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ABOUT Maciej Dakowicz

Maciej is an experienced Polish photographer, traveller and gallerist based in Mumbai, India. He holds a PhD in computer science, but abandoned science to focus on photography. He is one of the founders of Third Floor Gallery in Cardiff and a member of the international street photography collective In-Public. He has worked on various photographic projects in the UK and abroad and his interests are in documentary, travel and street photography.
Maciej’s photos have been widely published and exhibited around the world, shown at photo festivals (including Visa Pour l’Image international festival of photojournalism in Perpignan, France) and he is a recipient of numerous awards. He was profiled in two major street photography books published by Thames & Hudson – “Street Photography Now” in 2010 and “The World Atlas of Street Photography” in 2014. Maciej’s first monograph Cardiff After Dark was published in October 2012.