Striking Nighttime Portraits of Mumbai’s Cotton Candy Men

Mumbai candyfloss vendors

During his trip to Mumbai, India, London-based photographer Jon Enoch captured eye-catching portraits of local candy floss retailers posing in the middle of the night.

Enoch is known for creating striking and unusual portraits. His previous project took place in Hanoi, Vietnam, where he captured motorcycle riders carrying various loads. It was more than just a portrait project — the series also highlighted how the city authorities plan to ban motorcycles from the city centre in the future, affecting the livelihood of those who rely on this mobile form of transport.

“I’m interested in people and what they do to make a living, as well as how modernity has changed our cities,” Enoch told PetaPixel. “Partly I want to capture images that might not be possible in 10 years.”

In a similar manner, Enoch captured the candy floss — known as cotton candy in the United States — street vendors of Mumbai, one of the country’s largest financial centres and home to Bollywood stars. Enoch started researching India after reading about India’s growing obesity crisis. He also learned about the issues with an illegal dye added to some sweets and candy floss and was eager to know more.

Mumbai candyfloss vendors

“When I read that the desire to create the perfect eye-catching bright pink candy floss often leads to unauthorised colouring agents being added to the mix, I thought it’s the perfect metaphor for the ills of our time,” he says.

Shooting at Night for the Ultimate Light Control

“I spend a really long time planning my personal projects and scoping them out before I’ve even booked my plane tickets but in terms of planning there is only so much you can do from afar,” Enoch says regarding the start of each of his personal projects.

I might stay for several weeks, but will only be able to shoot for just a few days after all locations have been identified. You can’t beat boots on the ground.”

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Enoch decided to photograph his subjects at night, giving him plenty of opportunities to control and experiment with lighting. He also avoided the “uphill struggle” of photographing in midday Indian sunlight, as he said it can cause. Having flown from the United Kingdom, Enoch found the late hours easier to work as they are closer to his time zone, which also meant less jet lag.

“It was so busy all over Mumbai, it’s so difficult to find somewhere that’s not full of people,” Enoch adds. “Of course, I always attract attention when I’m doing photo shoots with all of the kit and lighting and a team of people but we need to avoid actual crowds!”

Playing the Political Game

The city also came with its fair share of legal obstacles. Enoch says that the city’s local authorities “love some red tape”, with the various rules and restrictions in place.

Different people have different control over the various parts of the city, whether they are police officers or politicians,” Enoch says. There are many people out there who see you as a potential source of income, so it is important to be alert. It certainly ranks highly on the stress levels.”

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The now finished photo project not only is a unique addition to Enoch’s extensive portfolio but also helped him learn more about the disparity in working and living conditions.

“It’s a cliche but really the massive divide in terms of poverty and wealth was a real eye-opener,” he says. “The candy men are selling candy floss for a few pence; some living in slums with open rivers as the only sanitation point; a few metres down the road from hotels with rooftop pools.”

More of Enoch’s work can be found on his website and Instagram.

Image credits: Photos by Jon Enoch.