A photo project shows the unequal coexistence of the past and present in Shahjahanabad.
In 2017, architect and photographer Satish Kumar came across Hotel Taj Mahal – A Home Away From Home on Church Mission Road in Delhi’s Chandni Chowk. The building was old and its teal-coloured façade was flaking. But the air of shabbiness couldn’t detract from the beauty of its curved balconies with fluted columns and elegant latticework – a typical example of Mughal architecture often seen in buildings in the Old Delhi area.
Kumar couldn’t help but compare the building to many of the more upmarket hotels in the city – structures made using aluminium composite panels, boasting a more contemporary look, but utterly lacking in personality. He photographed Hotel Taj Mahal and juxtaposed it with an image of another hotel, the frame divided right in the middle, to show the difference between the two.
That contrast set off an idea. He wanted to “understand the evolution of architecture in Delhi based on the historical, cultural and social influences which have shaped its progression”. The 31-year-old started photographing the streets of Old Delhi more regularly.
Kumar posted 12 images, selected from the ones he had taken over the last year, on his blog Architecture and Photography in September, as a photo project titled Beauty Lost in Progression. The dozen photos capture the last vestiges of Mughal architecture on Old Delhi’s streets. Crowded on all sides by modern buildings, film posters and shop hoardings, they are almost hidden from view.