Ten days of travel and street photography in Kolkata and Varanasi in April 2014



Travel and street photography workshop in Kolkata and Varanasi with Maciej Dakowicz


Kolkata and Varanasi, India.


19 – 28 April 2014.

Workshop Report by Maciej



- Boris Hamilton – www.flickr.com/photos/photogramaphy/, borishamilton.com/,
- Monica de Luna – www.flickr.com/photos/monicadeluna/,
- Alex Newman – www.flickr.com/photos/amnewman/,
- Ridwan Prasetyo – www.flickr.com/photos/read-one/.


A daily photo critique session in one of our hotel rooms in Varanasi. Here discussing Ridwan’s photos from Varanasi. Apart from photo reviews there were different presentations about street photography and its practical aspects.


Our group crosses the Ganges on the last day of our stay in Varanasi.


Boris shoots a scene with a horse on the other side of the Ganges in Varanasi.


Ridwan photographs daily life in the lanes of the Old City of Varanasi.


Monica shares photos and brings happiness on the bank of the Ganges in Varanasi.


Alex photographs early morning activities at one of the central ghats on the Ganges in Varanasi.


Alex, Boris, Ridwan and a big white holy cow blocking an alley in the Old City of Varanasi.


Ridwan photographs a street barber near the main ghat in Varanasi.


Boris, me and local guys in a small gym we randomly ended up in the Old City of Varanasi.


Monica photographs morning activities at one of the central ghats frequented by Indian women early morning at the Ganges in Varanasi. Getting close, connecting with people, getting accepted, right in the middle of the action.


Alex and a group of local kids in the lanes of Old Varanasi.


Boris photographs a group of men in Central Kolkata. The city was hit by a heat wave when we were there and it was very hot and humid during the last three days of the workshop. Boris’s shirt here is a proof.


Monica photographs a group of men loading goods onto trucks in Chitpur area of Kolkata.


Alex interacts with a group of Indian men at a street barber shop in the MG Road area in Kolkata.


Our group shooting at the flower market near Howrah Bridge in Kolkata. Battling the heat wave that hit the city during the last days of our workshop. It was crazy hot, but we did well.


Goodbye beers and Diet Coke at Fairlawn Hotel. Monica was leaving on that night and Boris, Alex and me stayed for two more days to enjoy Kolkata’s 40+ degrees heat wave. Quite an experience ahead of us.


Participant Photos


Alex Newman








Boris Hamilton







Ridwan Prasetyo








Monica de Luna








Workshop Information



Wikipedia says that “Kolkata is the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. Located on the east bank of the Hooghly river, it is the principal commercial, cultural, and educational centre of East India, while the Port of Kolkata is India’s oldest operating port as well as its sole major riverine port. As of 2011, the city had 4.5 million residents; the urban agglomeration, which comprises the city and its suburbs, was home to approximately 14.1 million, making it the third-most populous metropolitan area in India. As of 2008, its economic output as measured by gross domestic product ranked third among South Asian cities, behind Mumbai and Delhi. As a growing metropolitan city in a developing country, Kolkata confronts substantial urban pollution, traffic congestion, poverty, overpopulation, and other logistic and socioeconomic problems.”

and Lonely Planet says: “Simultaneously noble and squalid, cultured and desperate, Kolkata is a daily festival of human existence. And it’s all played out before your very eyes on teeming streets where not an inch of space is wasted. By its old spelling, Calcutta, India’s second-biggest city conjures up images of human suffering to most Westerners. But Bengalis have long been infuriated by one-sided depictions of their vibrant capital. Kolkata is locally regarded as the intellectual and cultural capital of the nation. Several of India’s great 19th- and 20th-century heroes were Kolkatans, including guru-philosopher Ramakrishna, Nobel Prize–winning poet Rabindranath Tagore and celebrated film director Satyajit Ray. Dozens of venues showcase Bengali dance, poetry, art, music, film and theatre. And while poverty certainly remains in-your-face, the dapper Bengali gentry continue to frequent grand old gentlemen’s clubs, back horses at the Calcutta Racetrack and play soothing rounds of golf at some of India’s finest courses.
As the former capital of British India, Kolkata retains a feast of dramatic colonial architecture, with more than a few fine buildings in photogenic states of semi-collapse. The city still has many slums but is also developing dynamic new-town suburbs, a rash of air-conditioned shopping malls and some of the best restaurants in India. This is a fabulous place to sample the mild, fruity tang of Bengali cuisine and share the city’s passion for sweets.
Friendlier than India’s other mega-cities, Kolkata is really a city you ‘feel’ more than just visit. ”


Wikipedia says that “Varanasi, also Benares, Banaras or Kashi, is a city on the banks of the Ganges (Ganga) in Uttar Pradesh. It is holiest of the seven sacred cities in Hinduism and Jainism. Hindus believe that death at Varanasi brings salvation.It is one of the oldest continuously inhabited cities in the world and the oldest in India. Varanasi is the spiritual capital of India. Varanasi is often referred to as “the city of temples”, “the holy city of India”, “the religious capital of India”, “the city of lights”, “the city of learning”, and “the oldest living city on earth.”

and Lonely Planet says: “Few places in India are as colourful, charismatic or spiritual as the bathing ghats lining the Ganges in Varanasi. The city of Shiva is one of the holiest places in India, where Hindu pilgrims come to wash away a lifetime of sins in the Ganges or to cremate their loved ones. Varanasi, previously named Benares and Kashi (City of Light) – it was renamed after the Varuna and Asi Rivers, which meet here – has always been an auspicious place to die, since expiring here offers moksha (liberation from the cycle of birth and death). The city is the beating heart of the Hindu universe, a crossing place between the physical and spiritual worlds, and the Ganges is viewed as a river of salvation, an everlasting symbol of hope to past, present and future generations. The magical but sometimes overwhelming city is where the most intimate rituals of life and death take place in public on the city’s ghats. The accessibility to the practices of an ancient but still living religious tradition is what captivates many visitors, and a walk along the ghats or a boat ride on the river is one of India’s most absorbing experiences.”

Exciting, isn’t it? There is so much to shoot there! Kolkata and Varanasi are Maciej’s favourite Indian cities. He has spent a considerable amount of time shooting there and will share his local knowledge and photography experience with the workshop participants.

Participants are encouraged to arrive a day or two before starting the workshop to become accustomed to the Indian climate and environment. April is the first month of Indian summer, so it is going to be hot, the temperatures will be around 35C degrees, so be prepared for sweating. Don’t forget the sun lotion and a good hat! But there will be less tourists and a lot of kids jumping into the Ganges in Varanasi willing to be photographed. And the evening beer will taste so good. We will shoot in the mornings and afternoons/evenings, spending the hottest hours of the day on editing and learning photography.

Workshop Description:

It will be a very practical workshop and there will be a lot of shooting every day. A very small group of 4 participants means a very high level of interaction with Maciej. You will be working in pairs changing “partners” after the lunch break or shooting on your own. While shooting with Maciej you will have a chance to observe him at work, learn his techniques and tricks. Maciej is a very experienced travel and street photographer and you will learn a great deal of new things. A special attention will be put on developing and practising “social skills” – an interaction with local people. You will not only hunt for decisive moments like Henri Cartier-Bresson but also get close to people, talk and photograph them. In the evening you will edit and discuss your photos in the group together with Maciej. There will be plenty of opportunities to talk photography too. There will be presentations on several nights of the workshop in which theoretical and practical aspects of street photography will be outlined and discussed.
It will be a very memorable adventure that will change you not only as a photographer, but as a person too.




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 total weekly travel spendings are usually around £150. The group will stay in affordable and comfortable hotels and the room prize will be around £10 per person. The total cost of such an adventure (including Maciej’s fee) should be around £1500 (when flying from the UK for around £500).

Maciej’s photos from Kolkata and Varanasi shot on the previous photography workshops (each taken while shooting with a workshop participant):

Morning bathing at the Mallick Ghat on Hooghly River in Kolkata,
Morning exercising on the bank of Ganges river in Varanasi, Indi
Morning exercising on the bank of Ganges river in Varanasi, Indi
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Morning bathing at the Mallick Ghat on Hooghly River in Kolkata, thumbnail
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Morning exercising on the bank of Ganges river in Varanasi, Indi thumbnail
Morning exercising on the bank of Ganges river in Varanasi, Indi thumbnail
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photography_workshop_adventure_india_varanasi_sleeping_dog_bicycle_travel_photography thumbnail
photography_workshop_expedition_tour_india_varanasi_ganges_street_photography_decisive_moment thumbnail

Please also take a look at the previous workshops to see what kind of pictures is taken on such trips. Maciej has been to India 11 times already and now he is based in Mumbai, so he is very experienced at photographing this country. He has organised and lead over ten Indian workshops so far and they all have been very successful (not only according to the participants – Maciej thinks the same).


ABOUT Maciej Dakowicz

Maciej is an experienced Polish photographer, traveller and gallerist currently 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, a member of the Wideangle photo agency, the international street photography collective In-Public and the un-posed Polish street photography collective. 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 among 46 leading street photographers in the “Street Photography Now” book published by the British publisher Thames & Hudson, who also published Maciej’s first monograph – Cardiff After Dark in October 2012.