Rush Hour in Pettah
Naattamis move out with their distinctive two-wheeled handcarts heavily laden with produce that has just been unloaded from the lorries on the left. Everything from salted fish, grain, flour, potatoes, and fresh produce is trucked into Colombo each morning from the nearby port, rural rice mills, coastal fishing villages, and farming cooperatives in the Central Highlands. Once they reach the narrow streets of the Pettah, however, they must be unloaded and carried in the carts and on the backs of these naattamis (Sri Lanka’s street version of the dockside stevedore), into the many small stores and wholesalers that pack Colombo’s huge market district. Without the naattami, the markets of Pettah would grind to a standstill. 4th Cross Street, September 2022. 

• 35mm • f/2.8 • 1/640 • ISO200 • Canon R6 & RF 35/1.8 courtesy Canon/Metropolitan


Street Meditative
Wolfendhal Street, Pettah. October 2022.

• 35mm • f/2.8 • 1/160 • ISO125 • R6, with RF35/1.8 courtesy Canon/Metropolitan

Man of the Road
Municipal labourer, Hussainiya Street, Hulftsdorp. October 2022.

• 35mm • f/2.8 • 1/2000 • ISO200 • RF 35/1.8 courtesy Canon/Metropolitan

Naattami, Old Moor Street
Pettah, September 2020.

• 35mm • f/6.3 • 1/200 • ISO400 • M6MkII & EF-M 15-45mm/3.5-6.3 courtesy Canon/Metropolitan.

Stay Home, Stay Safe
A naattami, the ubiquitious urban stevedore of Colombo’s market district, hauls a heavy load of grain along Dam Street, in the Pettah, in September 2020. For labourers such as he and, indeed, many others who earn a daily wage, staying home in the corona pandemic is not an option. Government-imposed round-the-clock lockdowns and restricted travel (the latter requiring employment papers or identification cards for movement; documentation that most workers in the casual sector do not have) inevitably affect millions, mostly in the lower and middle income brackets.

*shot on an M6MkII & 15-45mm/3.5-5.6, courtesy Canon/Metropolitan.

Pettah Hard Man
A naattami, the ubiquitous stevedore of the Pettah, swears fluently but good-humouredly while waiting for me to take his picture. Manning Market, Colombo. April 2018.

Naattamis, Dam Street, Pettah #3

Two naattamis, Dam Street, Pettah.
A sort of urban stevedore, the naattamis of Pettah unload produce from lorries that have brought rice, fresh vegetables, potatoes, and dry fish from all corners of the country, and carry them down the warren of streets to the wholesale stores that supply most of the city of Colombo. For short trips, the naattamis, who begin work before dawn, simply carry the heavy loads on their backs, while a distinctive two-wheeled hand cart is used for longer hauls. Naattamis have done this in this exact same way for over a century, and without them, the Pettah, Colombo’s main market district, would grind to a halt. Sri Lanka, September 2020.

*shot on an M6MkII & 15-45mm/3.5-5.6, courtesy Canon/Metropolitan.

Stay Home, They Say #2

Naattami, Keyzer Street, Pettah by Son of the Morning Light on
naattami pushes his empty cart down a crowded Keyzer Street, a week and a half before Sri Lanka declared its first coronavirus case on January 27th. 
Continue reading “Stay Home, They Say #2”

Walk of the Naattami

Walk of the Naattami by Son of the Morning Light on
naattami, Sri Lanka’s urban stevedore, makes his heavily laden way down Keyzer Street, in the Pettah area of Sri Lanka’s capital, Colombo. January 2020.
Continue reading “Walk of the Naattami”