Anushree Fadnavis is not just a daily commuter in the Ladies Only section of Mumbai locals but also a prolific photojournalist – one of the most followed Indians on Instagram.
Her current project has the attention of more than 93,000 people because it is attempting to do something very unique. Anushree photographs the women she meets on Mumbai’s local trains every day, captures their poignant stories and shares them with her followers on social media.
Her love for travelling on local trains started very early, thanks to her parents who swore by their efficiency. Many years later, Anushree expresses similar sentiments: “I prefer taking trains because they’re a faster way to commute and I don’t like getting stuck in traffic. In a private vehicle, you are in your own cocoon but while using public transport you get to see and experience the lives of hoards of people.”
When she started commuting on locals alone as a teenager, she was fascinated by the lives of the multitudes around her, often wondering about the stories behind the faces that passed in and out of the doors of the trains all the time. Now, she spends about two hours on the local trains every day, apart from other occasional trips she makes related to her work.
Anushree works as photo-journalist for a Mumbai-based news agency. “I wanted to do journalism for the longest time but I was stuck in the IT industry. So, out of my own interest, I started learning photography and then I found my mentor Arko. When I met him, I felt like he was the one person who could guide me and he did just that,” she says.
Anushree thinks of her collection of photographs as a visual diary. She calls them #TrainDiaries: “I don’t have any criteria for the photos that go up on my page; I click on the spur of the moment most times. Some frames compel me so I pick them for their visual beauty and in others the stories are more important. The friendships, the different kinds of relationships between the women, and the environment in the compartments are important to capture.”
Surprisingly, her beautifully composed and immensely detailed pictures are clicked on her phone. So why is the phone her first option when there is a plethora of professional cameras that are at her disposal? “I wouldn’t say a mobile camera is the best device to click photos discreetly, but any camera that is small and would not draw the attention of the subject or disturb the moment is useful.”
“People definitely tend to be a lot less conscious around a simple everyday device like a mobile,” she says.
Many of Anushree’s photographs are accompanied with well-written captions that add to the depth of the subjects she is photographing. When asked if she probes every subject for a story, she says, “If the moment is really sensitive and I see something spontaneous happening, I don’t wait to ask for permission. But if I’m sure that they don’t feel happy with me clicking them in a vulnerable way, then I don’t. If people aren’t happy with me clicking I put the phone away because it is important the action takes place regardless of someone being there to record it or not. Sometimes, I do talk to my subjects and ask them to tell me more about themselves. But at other times I just let them be because I don’t want to lose the moment by making them uncomfortable or self-conscious.”
An interesting and delightful aspect of Anushree’s photo-series is the range of sexual diversity in her subjects. Hijras and trans-genders make a regular appearance on her Instagram feed. Apart from talking about their tightly knit community and the kind of discrimination they face, they also show off their tattoos to Anushree because they are very well acquainted with her by now.
You too can follow Anushree Fadnavis on Instagram here.
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