“Flower Man” is a personal portrait project made in the Malik Ghat Flower Market in Kolkata. I first came up with the idea for the project when I was in Kolkata on assignment three or four years ago. I had an extra day in the city, so I decided to go to the flower market. It’s a beautiful and at the same time very stressful place—the market is one of the biggest flower markets in Asia and is very busy.
I became fascinated with the place—the flower sellers in particular captured my attention. I really like the way they transport their flowers; sometimes it almost looked like they were wearing big flower dresses. I also liked how these strong, masculine men would handle the flowers with so much care, as if they were little, precious things.
There are a lot of superstitions and religious beliefs surrounding flowers in India. For example, I wasn’t able to photograph some of the flower sellers because their flowers were holy, and they would lose their “power” if photographed.
I shot the portraits on a plain and simple background so the flower sellers would really stand out. I like how each man poses with his flowers in a different way, but all of them with a shared gentleness: the masculine man and his beautiful flower.
If you’re interested in seeing more work like this, we’d recommend these articles: Botanical Inquiry, the Fine Art winner from our Magnum Photography Awards that features nature shot with an analogue camera; Yusurika, a series shot by a Tokyo-based photographer that celebrates magic in the natural world; and Stars, a striking series that combines otherworldly shots of a forest with celestial images.