Mumbai Shadows
Gallery

Mumbai Shadows chronicles the effects of the city – compositions created or inspired by a unique physical and geographical urban form. In a literal sense, shadows are the consequence of the city’s physical presence.  At a metaphorical level, the effects of the city are found in other fluid forms, such as inspired literature and art.

17th and 18th Century accounts of Bombay provide an extreme contrast (and in some cases extreme similarities) to 21st Century aerial photographs.  Archival material is sourced from R.P. Karkaria’s 1915 book “The Charm of Bombay,” a deeply researched collective of more than 200 descriptive vignettes of the city. 

Karkaria’s literary excerpts of Bombay are attributed to foreign explorers, merchants, and visitors whose experiences were so striking as to necessitate being recorded for posterity. 

1,500 Year Sunrise

February 2017

SO2: 31
NOX: 185
RSPM: 256

“Bombay is a small island, but for its size, perhaps the most flourishing of any this day in the universe. Though the soil is so barren as not to produce any one thing worth mentioning, yet the convenience of its situation will always more than make up for that defect. It may be justly stiled the grand store-house of all the Arabian and Persian commerce.”

Edward Ives, British Naval Surgeon
Voyage from England to India, 1773

Bombay Island City II

March 2016

SO2: 22
NOX: 74
RSPM: 250

“In this City are several handsome buildings; among which are the Director’s palace, and a large elegant church near it. The houses are not flat roofed here, as through the rest of the east, but are covered with tiles in the European fashion. The English have glass windows. The other inhabitants of the island have their windows of small pieces of transparent shells framed in wood, which renders the apartments very dark. In the east it is the fashion to live during the dry season in chambers open on one side. The houses of Bombay are in general neither splendid nor commodious in any great degree.”

Carsten Niebuhr, German Mathematician, Explorer, and Cartographer
Voyage to Arabia, in Pinkerton’s Voyages, Vol. X 1764

Bombay Heights

February 2016

SO2: 26
NOX: 119
RSPM: 121

“The Island of Bombay should now no longer be considered as a settlement, or separate colony, but as the metropolis (surrounded indeed by a large moat) of an extensive domain. For this island, only twenty miles in circumference, and almost covered with houses and gardens, will soon become a city, similar to the other towns of Surat and Ahmedabad.”

James Forbes, British Artist and Writer
Oriental Memoirs, Vol II 1783

Back Bay to Salsette

September 2010

SO2: 12
NOX: 64
RSPM: 58

“The isle of Bombay is two German miles in length, by rather more than half a mile in breadth. A narrow channel divides it from another small isle of little value, called by the English Old Woman’s Island. Bombay produces nothing but cocoas and rice; and on the shore a considerable quantity of salt is collected. The inhabitants are obliged to bring their provisions from the continent, or from Salset, a large and fertile island not far from Bombay, and belonging to the Marattas.”

Carsten Niebuhr, German Mathematician, Explorer, and Cartographer
Voyage to Arabia, in Pinkerton’s Voyages, Vol. X 1764

Worli TV Tower Fog

February 2016

SO2: 12
NOX: 101
RSPM: 214

“It has but little good water on it, and the air is somewhat unhealthful, which is chiefly imputed to their dunging their cocao-nut trees with Buckshoe, a sort of small fishes which their sea abounds in. They being laid to the roots of the trees, putrify, and cause a most unsavoury smell; and in the mornings there is generally seen a thick fog among those trees, that affects both the brains and lungs of Europeans, and breed consumptions, fevers, and fluxes.”

Captain Alexander Hamilton, Scottish Sea-Captain and Merchant
New Account of the East-Indies, Vol. I 1723

Harbour Haven

April 2016

SO2: 13
NOX: 93
RSPM: 102

“It is reputed one of the most famous havens of all the Indies, as never being choked up by the storms, or yearly monsoons, but affords at all seasons reception and security for whole fleets.”

Captain Alexander Hamilton, Scottish Sea-Captain and Merchant
Description of the Port and Island of Bombay, 1724

Eastern Express Highway

March 2016

SO2: 22
NOX: 74
RSPM: 250

“The streets are well laid out and the buildings (namely gentlemen’s houses) so numerous and handsome as to make it an elegant town. The soil is sand, mixed with small gravel, which makes it always so clean, even, in the rainy season, that a man may walk all over the town within half and hour after a heavy shower without dirtying his shoes.”

Abraham Parsons, British Traveler and Consul
Travels in Asia, etc, 1775

Fortunes of the Unfortunate

March 2016

SO2: 22
NOX: 74
RSPM: 250

“The Ancients gave the Epithet of ‘Fortunate’ to some Islands in the West, because of their Delightfulness and Health; so the Modern may, in opposition to them, denominate this the ‘Unfortunate’ one in the East, because of the Antipathy it bears to those two Qualities.”

John Ovington, Royal Navy Chaplain
A Voyage to Suratt, 1689

Juhu to Kandivali

January 2016

SO2: 12
NOX: 40
RSPM: 125

Thane City and Creek

January 2016

SO2: 8
NOX: 53
RSPM: 164

“There are other islands lye between the Maine land and this, especially one called Salsett upon which the Portugals have a notable Pass called Tannah, by which noe Vessell can pass into the adjacent River and Maine, but by their Permission, for which they extract intollerable dutys.”

Streynsham Master, East India Company Pioneer
Diary of W. Hedges, Vol II, 1672

Bassein Creek

April 2016

SO2: 5
NOX: 18
RSPM: 53

“The west side of Salsette is wholly exposed to the Ocean, and the north side is wash’d by an inlet of water called the Road of Bassein reaching as far as the east point of Salsette.”

Captain Alexander Hamilton, Scottish Sea-Captain and Merchant
Description of the Port and Island of Bombay, 1724

Bassein Fort

April 2016

SO2: 5
NOX: 18
RSPM: 53

“Within Bassein were six Churches, four convents, a College of Jesuits, another of Franciscans, and a library of moral and expository works. The Hidalgos’ dwellings, with their balconies and lofty windows, presented an imposing appearance. Christians only were permitted to sleep within the walls of the town, and native tradesmen were compelled to leave at nightfall.”

John Fryer, British Physician
East India and Persia, 1675

Malabar Sunrise

February 2017

SO2: 31
NOX: 185
RSPM: 256

“On the other side of the great Inlet, to the Sea, is a great Point abutting against Old Woman’s Island, and is called Malabar-hill, a Rocky, Woody Mountain, yet sends forth long Grass. A-top of all is a Parsy Tomb lately reared; on its Declivity towards the Sea, the Remains of a Stupendious Pagod, near a Tank of Fresh Water, which the Malabars visited it mostly for.”

John Fryer, British Physician
East India and Persia, 1675

Urbs Indis is an urban aerial photography studio and archival library founded by Mumbai based architect and artist Robert D Stephens (RMA Architects). Since 2007 he has been documenting urban India from 10,000 feet above sea level, in black and white as well as colour photography.

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