“Anita, a transgender, poses for a picture in the ladies compartment of the Mumbai local train. Anita’s was (one of the) very first few pictures that I had clicked that paved the way for my project on transgenders. She has a beautiful tattoo of an angel and she calls it her “Angel”
Anushree Fadnavis is probably the most popular Reuters photographer on Instagram. She has close to 100,000 followers on the social media site, who actively engage with every picture she posts. This fame, though, has little to do with her work-related photographs. She is popular on Instagram because of her 5 years long series of images of women travelling in the ladies compartment of the iconic Mumbai locals. She shares them under the hashtag ‘#traindiaries’. “I always wanted to maintain a diary with Polaroid prints of people I meet every day, and the things I see and feel, “she says. “Instagram, when it was launched, had a 1×1 aspect ratio and offered the same feel. So, I started this as a virtual diary, to document the people and stories around me.”
Fadnavis’s subjects are the working-class women of the city for whom the local trains are a lifeline, and she photographs them with the easy camaraderie of a fellow commuter on her way to work herself. There are rarely any close-ups, and the inside of the coaches invariably serve as the backdrop, a constant reminder perhaps of the importance of these trains in their lives. The women are mostly lost in their thoughts, and Fadnavis’ framing of the pictures lends them an element of poignancy that makes them stand out. She has a notable fascination for transgender women, many of whom pose for her with the level of intimacy of a friend.
She prefers to keep her pictures simple; no-fuss shots taken in natural light, and on her mobile phone. But what completes the picture is the longish captions that she provides with each image, which capture her thoughts and also the stories of her subjects. She is never a neutral observer and seems to always strive to befriend the women she photographs. “You’d be surprised by how people share experiences of a lifetime with you. Sometimes, it takes just one journey to help you gain perspective about life,” she says. “I usually bump into some known faces as well, and we’ll casually enquire about each other’s lives.” Her favourite picture, she says, is the one of a girl with balloons. “She was carrying them for her cousin’s birthday.”