The multifaceted photographer — he is also a furniture, fashion and jewellery designer — shot this collection of more than 80 photographs (around 30 are on show) over a period of four years in Delhi, in the early 2000s. “Most of my photographic work revolves around giving something dead a second life, cars being one of them,” says Shahid Datawala. “It’s about seeing the mundane in a new light.” Under his probing lens, these forsaken beauties seem to have suddenly regained some of their old majesty. They look like they want to tell the world the story of their magnificent past. “Finally freed from their owner’s nostalgia, these ghosts show up on roadside corners,” Datawala says.
“The cars are more often than not found in the company of dilapidated architecture that is also negotiating similar situations and contexts. Through these complex portraits, I allow myself to think and speculate across unresolved debates — such as machine, nature, culture, change and habit — that these objects encompass.” Is he into cars himself? “I have a weakness for old design; the aesthetics and construction were impeccable. Cars just happen to be one of the things I love.” And, was he ever tempted to acquire one of these to refurbish? “They were far too expensive to buy,” he says. This goes to show that the owners of these cars may have abandoned them, but are equally loath to let them go, like some kind of punishment for an old crime, from the days when they ruled the streets.
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