From street portraiture to candid photography, Chor Bazaar has a lot to offer.
Chor Bazaar can't be outclassed for its people-watching and markets. Despite its name and reputation as a shady place, I find it quite to the contrary: a profoundly warm and welcoming place chockful of curious locals. While Chor Bazaar can be crowded, especially on Fridays when the shops are closed and the flea market begins, it is nevertheless the ultimate spot for street photographers. It is a must-see place if there ever was one in Mumbai for street photography.
There are many lanes feeding into the epicenter of the place, which has surely got to be the aptly named Mutton Street (you'll see what I mean!). Even if you wander outside the informal boundaries of the place, you're bound to run into nearby markets and other interesting zones of industry, like entire lanes dedicated to metal-working and tailoring.
What to expect You can expect plenty of people asking for their photos to be taken. Don't be put off by your unexpected popularity, especially if you're a foreigner. If you find interesting and willing subjects and spend some time getting the right portraits, just expect that vendors from shops further down the lane are likely expecting you to take their pictures too! You can always politely pass by or ignore them. But from my experience the more you put yourself out there, the more keepers you're going to get, especially if you're into street portraiture. On another note, if you're fond of taking candid pictures - like I am - you have a very small window to get your shots before you're noticed, especially if you're an outsider with a camera. It's almost supernatural, the way that your subjects will suddenly look up and take notice of you, potentially spoiling any composition you hadn't nailed down and shot. My advice is to be quick and pack a wide angle prime lens (35mm equivalent or less) to be the most effective.
Best time to arrive
Chor Bazaar definitely favors early birds among photographers. Deliveries of new goods often arrive early morning and a few shopkeepers are up in running before sunrise. I would highly recommend arriving between 9-11am to catch the action, although most shops formally open from 11am until just after 7pm. The problem with photographing late morning through the afternoon is the high sun overhead (heat and humidity!) and terrible lighting that goes with it. Otherwise, timing an arrival a couple hours before sunset may be more beneficial if you're not a morning person or if it doesn't fit your schedule. If you want to see the bustling flea market, be sure to arriving early on any Friday when all the shops close down and the stalls come out.
How to get there
Mutton St. is the key to navigating Chor Bazaar, while Nabullah Rd. is the best cross street to reference. If you're a first-time visitor going by cab and not using GPS, you could be dropped anywhere in the vicinity and will wander until someone points you in the right direction. TIP: Best to be dropped off at any of the major streets and then walk in to Mutton St. The narrow lanes of Chor Bazaar are usually bustling with people and wares and next to impossible to reach by car. Take Nabullah Rd. from Mohammed Ali Rd. or approach Mutton St. from the south from Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel Rd.