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Shanu Babar’s Window Seat Project

Babar: An Aspiring Photographer Carving His Childhood Fantasy For Windows Seat Into Railway Itinerary

Shanu Babar’s first train journey memory is from when he was just 5 years old, travelling with his extended family to Vaishno Devi. Just to get him stop running up and down the corridor, his uncle influenced him to sit by the window.

Babar said, “I was awestruck when I saw the world speed past me. I remember I was so tiny that my head could fit through the window grills. I stuck it out a couple of times and my mother screamed saying that I would die if I kept doing that!”.

Twenty years later in June 2015, Babar started The Window Seat, a photography project that documents the people and places seen from the window seat of a train.

When it comes to share his images on Instagram, Babar has a strategy and that strategy is: “It should primarily be a good story. The aesthetics are secondary. I look for a lot of variety because often, it can get very repetitive with the same kind of pictures and scenery. So I look for purpose. If a picture has that, it’s on the page. What I share is what I feel. I may not exactly like a certain picture but I know when it belongs on the page”.

Brought up in Osmanabad in Maharashtra, 26-year-old Babar’s love for looking at the world through the viewfinder took him to the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication in Pune, where he wrote his dissertation on the Indian Railways.

“I was studying the Audio/Visual course, learning the technicalities of aesthetics, experimenting with documentaries, short films, music videos, everything,” he said. “When I had to choose my dissertation, I was sure I wanted to do something travel-related. I pitched my project as a sort of travel documentary. We took a train to the southern-most part of India and asked people sitting at the window seat about the India they saw. As the train travels, it shows you those images – of a country you have never been to, never experienced, never interpreted.”

Babar found a job at a film that did post production work for films, when he graduated. However he found that  he missed travelling. He said, “The only way I could feel better was by reminiscing about my old trips. So I started sharing those photographs on Instagram and soon I was being followed by people who shared the same love for train journeys. This was my only escape, the only way I could stay afloat. Eventually, people wanted to share their own pictures and stories, and it became a full-blown community”.

#viewfromthewindowseat KempuHole river is a main tributary of mighty Netravthi river which supports life in DakshinaKannada and Mangalore. This river was about 10ft wide a month ago, but now it is raging and flooding after catching heavy downpours in the areas of kagenari forests, bisle and sakleshpur. _ Picture by @nature_nikon_nutso Keep hashtaging #windowseatproject on your pictures to get featured. _ #indiapictures #indiaclicks #indiatourism #indiatravelgram #official_photography_hub #igramming_india #photographers_of_india #indianphotography #streetphotography #streetphotographyindia #_soi #indianshutterbugs #incredibleindia #mypixeldiary #traveldiaries #yourshot_india #indianrailways #bbctravel #wanderlust #traveldiaries #indianrailways #everydayindia #railways #passionpassport . #trainjourneys #windowseat

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Yet, Babar has not found a way to make money off the project. But we hope he will find sponsors and collaborators eventually. He said, “When I was not travelling, I shot for a lot of reality television shows – India Banega Manch, The Voice, So You Think You Can Dance and Masterchef. I also did a food and travel show in Australia. All these projects helped me hone my skills and apply professional standards to my personal project. They also helped me make money”.

Soon he will start on what he described as the “Great India Rail Trip”. He will explore the entire country. He said, “It is the solo trip that my page deserves. I had already embarked upon the ride once before in March 2017 but after 13 days, I developed a food-borne infection that needed to be treated clinically”.

I’m excited to know what lies beyond – it could be Sri Lanka or Australia…Wherever there are railways and people, I want to be there and know their stories.He wants take his photography beyond India.

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