Mauritian Photographers: Khatleen Minerve and Her Streets Project

Mauritian Photographers: Khatleen Minerve and Her Streets Project

There is a tiny island in the Indian Ocean called Mauritius that reminds me of heaven. When my husband and I got a job offer to work there some years ago, I had no idea I would meet this amazing soul that was Khatleen Minerve. Eventually, she turned into a very talented and requested photographer.

At the time we met, she was studying law and was taking her first steps in photography as a hobby. Back in 2011, she started a personal project named “The Streets Project,” photographing the capital city because she wanted to experiment, but also because she had, in the words of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, an affection for that city and felt safe in its neighborhoods.

Woman and Her Family On Motorcycle, China Town, Port-Louis

Upon starting, Khatleen decided to shoot a few portraits monthly for her project, portraying people as she sees them. As she puts it, people are her people and she loves how their faces, their expressions, the gestures, and words appeal to her. Whenever she walks in the streets, she feels like she is where she should be to get inspired. The shouts, the noise of rattling things, the footsteps on the ground, the honks of vehicles, the far-too crowded streets all make for an invisible backdrop. They make her feel trivial because she realized that there is sometimes more to see if you just care to look deeper. Some personal issues do not compare to the myriad of problems that people might be facing out there in the streets and in their homes.

"I'll be home soon for dinner, my love."

Riding home, walking home

Khatleen clearly remembers the first pictures she took for the project; she found three subjects: a father, his daughter, and a musician.

I saw the musician first and fell in love with his face: a kind one surrounded by dreadlocks. I pointed my camera at him and silently asked for his consent. He looked and nodded at me with a smile. I took one picture, and that was it. He looked at the picture and smiled again. And then I turned and shot a few pictures of the father and daughter who were selling necklaces.

Portrait of A Young Rasta Man, Gare du Nord, Port-Louis

The Rasta Man's Daughter, Gare du Nord, Port-Louis

Compared to many countries abroad where street photography laws are well documented and strictly regulated, which in consequence, have made people averse to having their portraits taken in the streets, Khatleen mentions that most people in Mauritius are friendly and open. And if they see a nice girl wanting to grab a picture of them, they will usually encourage her to do so and even ask her to take pictures of their friends. They joke and most of the time, don't even ask to see the picture. But then, for a commercial usage, I doubt they will ask anything of you!

Her series appears very real and candid, and that makes one come back to them again and again: the simplicity of people and everyday tasks transformed into cinematic frames with the lovable vision of this photographer. She prefers to shoot light. About 6 years ago, she started the project with the Nikon D3100 and Nikkor 35mm 1.8G, and nowadays, she prefers her Nikon D7100 with a Sigma 35mm f/1.4 DG HSM Art and Sigma 18-35mm f/1.8 DC HSM Art. She chose to showcase the series mainly in black and white to avoid any distractions in terms of colors. It gave the project the same feel even after changing the editing styles through the years. 

The barber of Mahebourg: Since his early teenage years, this barber has been doing this job. It's been now almost 70 years, and he still works. (Mahebourg, Mauritius)

As tme has passed, Khatleen has grown into a professional portrait, fashion, and wedding photographer, but she never misses a chance to take a memorable photo of the streets of her heavenly island. To explore Khatleen Minerve's multi-genre work, don't hesitate to follow her Behance portfolio here

All images used with permission of Khatleen Minerve

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15 Comments

Shayne Thomas's picture

Thats so so cool! :) I grew up in Mauritius for 15 years and so whenever this little island reaches headlines or blogs like this it makes me really happy... :) @Khatleen Minerve - To p fair en mari bon travai... mo fier de toi et notre ti lil. rest seyer! :)

Khatleen Minerve's picture

Shayne, mersi bocou pu to lencourazman! Sa fer mwa mari plezir!

Shayne Thomas's picture

Mari bon sa!! :) Sa fer mwa plezir de konn twa maitnan! Di bonzou a mon ti lil! :)

Emma Grigoryan's picture

Shayne, I think Mauritius has some magic power! That's where I myself turned to full time photographer and was inspired with every inch of it, although I lived there only for 3 years but always craving to go back. Second home for me!

PS; I am doing series of interviews/stories about outstanding Mauritian photographers, so stay updated !

Shayne Thomas's picture

Thats so great Emma :) Where in Mauritius were you? It really is an incredible little island. One of the things that I cherish the most was the multi-cultural diversity. I so wish when the day comes, my kids can grow up in an environment like that.

Emma Grigoryan's picture

When I landed I stayed at Quatre Bornes for some 3 months and the almost 3 years at Flic en Flac.
Totally agree with the multi-cultural diversity, that was probably the kicking point of me becoming full time photographer leaving me graphic design career in past. Right this diversity inspired me to do a project Khatleen knows very well named "7
Fairies of Mauritius" , although it was ages ago {kind of 1st photo project], but you can have a look at it here:
https://www.behance.net/gallery/1664260/7-Fairies-of-Mauritius

tribute to ethnic-cultural diversity and the beauty and variety of mesmerizing landscapes, all model are Mauritian

Shayne Thomas's picture

Ah nice.. So West side of the island. I grew up in Blue bay (literally 5 minutes from the Airport). Thanks for the link! Ha! You photographed Amber? :P We're friends... well used to be when I lived there. For a first photo project, you did damn fine Job emma! :)

Emma Grigoryan's picture

I have been to Blue Bay, that was one magical place! did a shoot there as well !
thanks for the lovely feedback, in the end it turned to a pretty massive exhibition at Le Caudan with Ministry of Culture and so on )

Shayne Thomas's picture

Thats so rad! Congratulations!! :) Pitty our paths never crossed when I was there. I left in 2010 and moved to another small island (Zanzibar - for 3 years). ;)

Emma Grigoryan's picture

I left Mauritius in December 2011 (I just realized how long ago that was!) 2009-2010 were final career transitional years and just when I did the fairies - exhibition was on April 2011.
We are planning to visit Zanzibar someday for a holiday, hopefully soon. Let me know if you ever visit Armenia (my current location) !

Shayne Thomas's picture

oh right.. So we just missed each other... Sure - I definitely will do; and if you need advice & things to do in Zbar, hit me up.

Khatleen Minerve's picture

Em, if it does not work for Yerevan this year, I think we'll just have to fly to Zanzibar and meet up with Shayne and enjoy some time off!

Shayne Thomas's picture

unfortunately Im no longer living in Zanzibar (Germany at the moment); but should you decide to go - by all means, let me know and I'd be more than happy to point you in the right directions... :)

Khatleen Minerve's picture

Thank you Emma for this amazing post!