A Tale of Two Cities. Bombay v New York.


An impressive skyline. A  place teaming with people who have a profound love of their city – and a vocal disdain for other places.  A city where people help each other in times of crisis. A city that never sleeps.

New York or Bombay?

For photographer Nisha Sondhe, the answer is both. In her project Bombay v. New York she captures images that highlight the similarities of these two vibrant metropolises. Pigeonwallas, bridges, trains, fire-eating, street vendors – both cities have it all – and Sondhe does a remarkable job of showcasing their sameness, without judgment.

After assisting other photographers for 10 years (she was having a blast), she was encouraged, nay pushed, by those in the know to do her own work. She put a portfolio together from images she had on hand – lots of photographs of India – and out she went.

And she was told,  “I see that you can make India look exotic and beautiful but can you make New York look exotic and beautiful AS WELL.” Thus her project Bombay v. New York was born, because Sondhe believes ” both places are beautiful and both places are exotic to someone else.”

She’s headed back to India in a few months to add to her collection. In the meantime she shared her thoughts on several sets of images.


The Brooklyn bridge was the first bridge in New York and I know there are others planned for Bombay so I thought these two make the most sense together. These photos were both taken exactly at the same time of day just as the sun was rising.


These two images always stop everybody. In both cities everyone assumes that the neatly arranged garlic is from New York. It’s not. In New York’s farmers markets I think the farmers need to prove the garlic is home grown and organic and It seems in Bombay they are trying to show the opposite.



I’m sure there’s a saying in Bombay describing the state of chaos being “like grand central”.  It’s rare to see people just chilling or see the stations calm but they can be that way and it can be during the day.


The kids in Bombay and the kids in New York are smart and savvy they know how to have fun and they know how to avoid getting in trouble. Both sets of kids enjoyed that I was there taking their picture. Both sets of kids apologized sincerely to the police officers for causing them any trouble and both sets of kids resumed their play after the police had gone.


In both instances the trains were at the end of the line and had just dropped off their morning commuters. Both times it was a quick snap before I got off the trains, just an after thought since I was really there during rush hour trying to figure out how to photograph the trains when they were packed with their grumpy morning locals trying to get to work.

 About the skyline images at the top of the page, Sondhe says:

The southern tip of Manhattan and the Cuff Parade also shot at the same time of day just after sunrise, I’d say with in the hour. The thing that is different is the sunlight. I’ve read that while the earth is round it has flat surfaces, peaks and valleys. When it’s clear like this in Bombay you can see the light slants to the side. The New York sunrise  always seems kind of horizontal to me. I have to research this or… maybe just make more trips in the winter to Bombay.


Lali Mama: Vikram Singh Manco, my mom’s younger brother has had the biggest burden of helping me with this project but it’s not really my fault he was born and raised in Bombay and I don’t think there’s a human being in the city he doesn’t know or has one degree of separation from.  This photo is slightly staged since his train riding days are mostly over but he knows them and he knew how to help me get on and off of them.  He’s taught me everything I know about Bombay and I mentioned that there’s no way this project would be possible without him right?

LaToya Jordan: One of my closest friends in New York City, born and raised. This photo isn’t as staged since Mrs. Jordan can be seen riding the trains all over this city. She’s been a great source of information for me. She works in marketing and communications.  I think she’s helped me with every pairing in the project. She’s also a poet and is currently working on a poem for me that will go along with my Bombay v New York project describing the work entirely. I can’t wait for that!!

For more photographs by Nisha Sondhe see www.nishasondhe.com


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