Time Observed


Chancing upon Sidhpur while on assignment, Sebastian Cortés decided to document its rich Dawoodi Bohra heritage and local architecture.

I decided to include the woman in the frame as the elaborate staircase needed the counter point of a human figure to create balance.

While shooting a photoessay in Gujarat for a magazine, my editor suggested that I pay a visit to Sidhpur. She knew that I enjoy the emotional vibrance of lonely, forgotten places. The layering of time was evident in the elements of the homes and the atmosphere of Sidhpur. I was introduced to the community by a noted member. The people I met were always helpful and interested. I visited the place thrice to complete my project.

The way the light was passing through the window and the architecture of the room caught my attention.

Through the experience, I have come to further understand the indiscriminate process of history and how progress and modernity can isolate and leave once prosperous places abandoned by the winding road of change. Each individual, each home, in equal measure, is part of the very transient quality of life and history. The confirmation of my observations surface in the pictures I make.

As told to Naimish Keswani

This article originally appeared in the August 2015 issue of Better Photography.

Tips on Photographing Vernacular Architecture

  • You don’t necessarily have to know a lot about the location. Just let the context and the mysteries of the place guide your observations.
  • Give yourself the time to linger and explore. Never try to force a result. Let the image appear and compose itself.

Sebastian Cortés is a four-time IPA Award winner who has shot fashion, travel and lifestyle photography assignments for many international magazines and commercial clients. He moved to India in 2004 and currently teaches at Sri Aurobindo Centre for Arts and Communication, Delhi.