THE NEW PHOTO HISTORIAN
Chronicling Mumbai’s history through old photographs
Historical photographs play an important role in establishing the connection between the past and present. The emergence of photo-sharing platforms has created new curatorial opportunities for people to share their findings with a larger audience and create a sense of shared history. Mumbai Heritage is one such citizen initiative chronicling the city’s history through photographs. Their Twitter handle boasts of 18.7k followers while 3650 people follow them on Instagram.
Mumbai Heritage is the brainchild of Kunal Tripathi, 31, an engineer. Kunal fell in love with his city’s heritage in 2013. “My tryst with the history of Mumbai began when a colleague introduced me to places in Mumbai which I had never seen before. This fueled my interest to search for the ‘lost’ Mumbai and I started looking out for lesser known places in the city”. Kunal realized that like him, there were many Mumbaikars who had little idea of the history that surrounds them. To bridge the gap, he started an account on Instagram to post information on lesser known heritage sites. Subsequently, he started sharing old pictures of Bombay and trivia on Twitter.
Mumbai Heritage Twitter and Instagram pages work in tandem to create a nonlinear narrative and fascinating account of Mumbai’s history. On Instagram, Kunal shares pictures he takes of “places that people tend to ignore, unaware of their history”. His photo documentation focuses mostly on the architectural heritage of Mumbai. “It is probably unrivalled in India, this amalgamation of Neo-classical, Indo-Saracenic and Art-deco styles of architecture. The inner city areas like Parel, Girgaum, Kalbadevi or the old Bandra, all have a rich history”. Some of his fascinating finds include a Chinese Temple in Mazgaon, a Gateway of India replica at Gamdevi and Sardar Gruha (where Lokmanya Tilak breathed his last).
The Twitter page is dedicated to sharing archival photographs and memorabilia. Kunal digs through different sources (books and images available in the public domain) with the aim to have them in one place. He has shared nearly 1700 hundred images so far and there are many more to come. “I make it a point to mention the source wherever possible. I have created a database of photographs categorizing them but still searching the actual source so that I can post them”.
Kunal has been successful in his efforts, thanks to the Internet and social media platforms. Though happy with the reception of his project, Kunal feels sad about the “sorry state of affairs” when it comes to preserving heritage. “Listing and legislation are important steps to protect the iconic structures, but the real effort has to come from citizens to sustain them, so that the lessons of history could be passed down to the next generation”.
For the future, Kunal plans to organize heritage walks that will help people to not only view but experience the heritage of Mumbai.
Images courtesy @MumbaiHeritage