Cities can be madhouses of those desperate to reach their destinations – whether that be a physical terminus or a goal one has set in mind. So you have endless traffic jams, people ill-treating each other, politics, bad blood and bad health.
But in every such concrete jungle, there are those who find a space for themselves. They don’t need bungalows, the spacious streets are sufficient for them. Cars are not necessary, they traverse on foot. And jobs are dispensable, they find success in their myriad vocations.
So when Ishan Tankha, a Delhi-based photojournalist, went to Tokyo and encountered the same spaces and people in Tokyo, as in his own city, he thought of documenting them through his camera. His photographs The Inbetweeners: In the Shadows in Tokyo and Delhi are now on exhibition at The Japan Foundation, Lajpat Nagar.
Ishan says, “Some years ago, I had the opportunity to spend a few days in Tokyo on an assignment. In my free time, I wandered around the city taking photographs, a little lost, aimless, unsure of what I was looking for. I didn’t have enough time to know Tokyo in even a superficial way, never mind in pictures that would capture a sprawling city like Tokyo.”
“Instead, I found myself drawn to people who seemed to be in some sort of liminal state, in-between people who had found a moment, in an otherwise busy day, for stillness that disrupted the norm of the purposive city-dweller. A salary man slumped over a beer in the middle of the day, for instance. He had what in megalopolises like Tokyo, and Delhi, is arguably the most precious commodity - time, blank, and gloriously empty time.”
So Ishan’s photographs are a film traversing two regions, kilometres apart – Tokyo in Japan and Shahpur Jat in Delhi. The former, a cosmopolitan city, the flow of which, Ishan documents, is sometimes punctuated by women dressed-to-impress on the streets, delivery boys halting to catch their breath and homeless men who have found a corner for themselves; the latter, a sleepy urban village dotted by huts, charpoys and rural folk.
Ishan says, “These images cause me to wonder about an alternative imaginary of urbanity; could they encapsulate a moment, which lingers just long enough to cause one to pause and reflect?”