Special Feature – THE COLPETTY MARKET: Colombo’s Original Supermarket

Whether you are there just to browse, or do your weekly grocery run, you will find yourself struggling to leave without buying enough food to feed a full strength infantry platoon.”

A collective cash desk on the Colpetty Market’s second floor handles the proceeds for all the seafood stalls.
Continue reading “Special Feature – THE COLPETTY MARKET: Colombo’s Original Supermarket”

Colombo Night Market

5th Cross Street, Pettah. January 2023.

• 35mm • f/4 • 1/80 • ISO6400 • Canon R6 & RF14-35/4L •

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

A Busy Morning at the Onion Store

4th Cross Street, Pettah. September 2022. The wholesalers of Colombo’s market district keep the capital’s supermarkets, grocery stores, and restaurants supplied with produce trucked in each day from all across Sri Lanka and, without them, the city would go hungry.

• 35mm • f/2.8 • 1/200 • ISO400 • Canon R6 & RF 35/1.8 courtesy Canon/Metropolitan

No 13A in Tamil Town

A busy Friday evening in Pettah, Colombo’s main shopping and market district. January 2023. Interestingly, while the city of Colombo is mostly Tamil-speaking (over 60% of the residents are Tamil or Tamil-speaking Moors), the sign in the foreground prohibiting parking is only in Sinhalese (the majority language of Sri Lanka), reflecting decades of Sinhalese-dominated governance that many believe has contributed to ethnic conflict. The controversial 13th Amendment to the Constitution, passed by Parliament in 1987, legislated that, amongst other things, Tamil be elevated to the status of an official language, alongside Sinhalese, and that all official communications be in both languages. However, more than thirty-five years later, many clauses of the amendment remain unenforced, despite Tamil demands for equal treatment.

• 35mm • f/4 • 1/100 • ISO2000 • Canon R6 & RF14-35/4L •

Sometimes Life Gives You Oranges

Six for two-hundred bucks, on 2nd Cross Street, Pettah. January 2023.

• 35mm • f/4 • 1/125 • ISO1250 • R6 & RF14-35/4L •

Evil Eye

Sri Lanka’s Lotus Tower is probably the most easily noticeable symbol of the government corruption and ineptitude that brought on the worst economic catastrophe in the island nation’s history. Ordered by former President Mahinda Rajapakse in 2012, the tower, the tallest in South Asia, and visible from practically every part of the capital, Colombo, is viewed by many as a vanity project, costing as much as $104 million to build, but with little use beyond glorifying the leadership of the former president and his party (the Sri Lanka Podujana Pakshaya’s symbol is a lotus). This photograph was taken from 5th Cross Street, in the city’s market district of Pettah, in January 2023.

• 35mm • f/4 • 1/100 • ISO6400 • R6 & RF14-35/4L •

Morning Tea in Pettah

John purveys his super tea all along 4th Cross Street and the surrounding warren of lanes and alleys that make up the Keyzer Street Market, offering the naattamis, traders, and lorry drivers a refreshing break in their work of hauling, stocking, and selling the dry goods that keep the city fed. Colombo, September 2022.

• 35mm • f/2.8 • 1/640 • ISO400 • Canon R6 & 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.

Young Poultry Butcher, Colpetty Market

The cheerful kid dressing chickens for dinner couldn’t quite figure out why I’d want to take his picture, but decided that this hapless rooster deserved a last portrait too. Colombo, April 2014.