Siddharth Setia
Bathinda, India
Canon EOS 5D Mark II | CANON EOS 70D | Canon EOS 550D

Siddharth, your work is so authentic and portrays the deep roots of Indian culture in such beautiful moments. Are there any stories to tell behind these moments?

What I have learnt to do is not to put any pressure on myself while I am shooting in the streets. I observe more than I shoot and I am absolutely fine with the possibility of ending each day with no good images. This method ensures that I do not force my photography and maybe that is why my photographs probably appear natural. You are never sure of the perfect moment because you are always looking and anticipating. You are never quite sure when the moment is right, because it can either peak or disappear. So it’s your intuitive and reflexive to guess for the perfect moment.

Colour is a very prominent element in all your work. Do you think the traditions and festivals of India have an influence on your work?

I feel blessed to be born in a country which has so much to offer in terms of Photography. India is a country which is full of vibrant colors and passionate people. Yes, Color is an integral part of my work. It gives life to my stories and I use it to paint the canvas which I see through the viewfinder of my camera.

How did you begin your photographic journey, and how would you describe your style as a documentary photographer?

As long as I could remember I have always been an observer. I love to observe things, emotions and expressions around me. I started Photography with my Mobile camera when I was in College. I used to shoot anything and everything which attracted my eye or I thought was meaningful. Only after passing out of College I bought myself my first DSLR which was a Canon 1000D. My camera was always pointed towards the local people going about their everyday lives. They fascinated me. It was at that time that I fell in love with street photography. I won’t say my skill for Photography is Self taught as a major credit should go to National Geographic channel which introduced me to my Hero “Steve McCurry” at that time. I used to spend hours and hours looking at his photographs and tried to learn about composition and capturing human emotion at its very best. After that there was no looking back. I think my style comes through more in the way I approach a shoot. I’m also quite spontaneous with my ideas, with many of my favorite images being taken without a moment’s notice. I guess I learned this on the road where you don’t have much control over what’s happening around you. You have to pay attention to the wave of the environment and go with the flow. It’s usually finding a unique spot and waiting for the right person to appear. Or finding the right person to appear and get to know them enough that they will make a picture with you.

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Chaupar Game Pieces

India (Rajasthan), Mughal, 1750 - 1800

Painted and lacquered ivory

Chaupar is a game similar to pachisi. The Penn Museum wrote an interesting article about pachisi and chaupar and wrote:

The first description of any of these games seems to have been written in the 16th century, when chaupar was a common gambling sport at the court of the Mughal emperor Akbar in Agra and Fatehpur Sikri. The emperor himself was an addict and in the courtyard of his palace at Fatehpur Sikri he had laid out in flagstones a huge “board” where he and his courtiers enjoyed the game, using slaves as the playing pieces. How much older than Akbar the game is, it is not possible to say, but Abul Fazl, vizier and historian of Akbar, remarks of chaupar, “From times of old, the people of Hindustan have been fond of this game,” but adds no further information about dating. Some of the features and paraphernalia of the games, though not the games themselves or the board, seem to have existed in India as long ago as the latter part of the third millennium B.C.

Portrait of a beautiful gypsy girl seen on the streets of Pushkar.

This portrait was made on the annual Pushkar Fair in Rajasthan, India.

Photo By: Siddharth Setia

Unknown Indian painter working in the Rajasthani style

A European Lady Fishing

India (c.1760)

Gouache heightened with gold on paper


A company portrait from Columbia’s Indian Routes project!

A lady sits on a hilly bank wearing blue costume, green shawl and pink hat, holding in one hand a fishing rod and in the other the line, with a fish attached. Duck and fish swim amongst waterlilies in the water in front of her and to her right lie the fish she has caught. Between black, red and gold rules, the margins yellow with repeated floral motif, mounted, glazed and framed.