Perfect pastels: Why India's 'Pink City' is a photographer's paradise

Updated 23rd February 2018
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Hawa Mahal Victor Cheng
Perfect pastels: Why India's 'Pink City' is a photographer's paradise
Written by Zahra Jamshed, CNN
The city of Jaipur is one of India's architectural wonders. It houses some of the country's most ornate royal palaces -- elaborate structures designed hundreds of years ago that still captivate visitors today.
Largely built in the 1700s under the order of Rajput ruler Sawai Raja Jai Singh II, Jaipur is surrounded by a city wall and several defensive forts. Conceived as a commercial center in the state of Rajasthan, it was considered ahead of its time due to the use of grid iron city planning.
A romantic dusty pink hue -- which has defined the city since 1876, after it was painted pink to welcome Queen Victoria's husband, Prince Albert -- gives Jaipur its status as the "Pink City," as it is commonly known.
This architectural beauty is what first brought Hong Kong-based photographers Victor Cheng and Samantha Wong to Rajasthan's capital.
Trading in glass skyscrapers for century-old royal palaces and historic forts, the pair -- who have 130,000 Instagram followers between them -- said that the images they captured in Jaipur received an unprecedented response online.
"The response [to our photographs of Jaipur] has been amazing, almost ridiculous," Cheng said. "A lot of our followers hadn't seen this side of India, so we're happy we were able to show this side of the country."

The 'Pink City'

For the photographers, one of the city's most intriguing traits is the pastel pink coloring of its buildings.
"The first gates you see when you enter are pink," said Wong. "Once you're through, everything around you varies in different shades of the color -- from bright pinks to reddish browns."
One pink palace proved especially popular on social media, receiving hundreds of comments within days of being shared: the historic Hawa Mahal.
The building is an extension of the City Palace, and its windows allowed royal women to observe street life without appearing in public. One of Cheng's most striking photos shows a straight facade of the building and its hundreds of windows.
"It wasn't easy to capture. There was a coffee shop across the street with a rooftop, and we had to wait for over an hour for the crowds to disappear in order to get that perfect shot," said Cheng.
The building's vibrant coloring also pushed Cheng to take a different approach to editing than with images of other cities.
"I toned down my usual editing process because the pink was so bright and saturated in reality," he said. "I wanted the photos to reflect the actual color I was seeing myself and to maintain its tone."

Complex symmetry

The city's formative buildings were created in a Rajasthani architectural style, which blends the complex construction of Hindu Rajput building techniques with the striking symmetry of Mughal design.
"A lot of the buildings were designed to be very symmetrical, which from a photographer's perspective works out very nicely," said Cheng.
Surrounded by elaborate symmetrical structures, Cheng said little effort was required to produce or stage his images.
"It didn't require much work ... because if I just stood in the middle, my camera could capture things perfectly. The buildings and color made it easy for us to capture perfect shot."
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