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11.02.2016

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Anyone who has experienced the constant traffic chaos in Mumbai, the city with the highest population and traffic density in India, probably considers even the worse rush hour traffic jam in any major European city as pretty harmless. Padmini taxis have been part of Mumbai’s traffic scene since the sixties, and London photographer Dougie Wallace has now dedicated a bibliophile monument to the black and yellow boxes produced by Indian car manufacturer, Premier. Over a four year period, Wallace squashed himself time and again into these cars – also known as Kaali Peeli cabs –, photographing both drivers and customers from very close quarters.
Kaali Peeli cabs are just as much a tourist attraction in Mumbai, as Yellow Cabs are in New York, or black FX4 taxis in London. The vehicles, however, are now faced with their ultimate demise: while the taxis have long been legendary due to their colourful, often idiosyncratic interiors reflecting the individuality of each owner, they also further stink up the city’s already polluted air. Consequently, the city administration has now decided to deny the prolongation of permits for any taxi that is over twenty years old. There were once over 60,000 of them, but now they will all disappear over the next few years. The newer taxi models promise better air quality and more driving comfort, but the originality of these automobile icons will be missing. For this reason, Dougie Wallace’s Road Wallah photo book is a requiem. His pictures of these elaborately-decorated Bollywood disco bars on wheels, equipped with enormous loudspeakers, eccentric interiors with shrill-coloured, padded seating, or with dashboards covered with every available Hindu god, clearly reveal why these taxis have achieved cult status. With his very direct shots, Wallace has found the appropriate photographic approach for the phenomenon.
“Human behaviour motivates my pictures. People, their interactions and emotions fascinate me… Translating this, through my lens, into social wit, criticism and humorous vignettes is what stimulates me,” the photographer explains. In addition to all the folklore, the disappearance of the old taxis has dramatic consequences for many independent drivers, for whom the ban on the Padminis is a catastrophe, as most of them can barely afford a newer model.

Born in Scotland and living in East London for over fifteen years, Wallace is one of the most conspicuous representatives of contemporary street photography. His unmistakeable style has been causing a stir for some years now, and his pictures have a long track record of having been printed in renowned, international magazines. Following Stags, Hens & Bunnies (Dewi Lewis Publishing, 2014) and Shoreditch Wildlife (Hoxton Minipress, 2015), Road Wallah is Wallace’s third book to be published – happily in a format that allows the mostly double-spread pictures to have a very direct impact. Ulrich Rüter

Dougie Wallace
Road Wallah
96 pages, 65 colour images
37 x 28 cm, English
Dewi Lewis Publishing
©Dougie Wallace/ INSTITUTE from Road Wallah. www.dewilewis.com
©Dougie Wallace/ INSTITUTE from Road Wallah. www.dewilewis.com
©Dougie Wallace/ INSTITUTE from Road Wallah. www.dewilewis.com
©Dougie Wallace/ INSTITUTE from Road Wallah. www.dewilewis.com
©Dougie Wallace/ INSTITUTE from Road Wallah. www.dewilewis.com
©Dougie Wallace/ INSTITUTE from Road Wallah. www.dewilewis.com
©Dougie Wallace/ INSTITUTE from Road Wallah. www.dewilewis.com
©Dougie Wallace/ INSTITUTE from Road Wallah. www.dewilewis.com
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