I began photographing Mumbai Sleeping in the summer of 2009 to explore the diversity of a universal human experience. I was in awe of my subjects who use the urban landscape as a bed when most of the people I know cannot sleep with a light on, the sound of traffic or an uncomfortable mattress. I was particularly inspired by the taxi drivers of Mumbai who slept in such a romantic balance with their vehicles after leaving their wives and families in the rural parts of the country to make a living in India’s city of dreams.
I was also motivated by the idea and opportunity to photograph people while they are unaware of the camera and to remove the politics of the pose from my images. In this sense I believe I was trying to capture portraits of the unconscious.
Of the few people that woke up whilst being photographed, no one ever gave me any grief or opposed my actions to photograph them sleeping. I am ever grateful for the people of India whose hospitality towards photographers allows us to capture real life as it unfolds without having to disrupt it with the politics of consent.
Over 300 images later I still find myself compelled to document this phenomena of urbanization in the 21st century where space has become so scarce that private acts are conducted in public. Mumbai Sleeping is a testament to the strength and human spirit of the lower class urban population that drive the wheel of the city by day and sleep on it at night – forcing us to question whether a good night’s sleep is a luxury or a necessity.