Early morning, we decided to go back to Kyani & Co. to complete some shots leftover from the previous day. With some struggle with the waiters and the crowds, we succeeded and moved out to capture the exteriors quickly before heading back. The rest of the day was dedicated to Yazdani Bakery and B. Merwan & Co.
Around noon, we went to Yazdani, the smallest of all the cafes–a traditional setting that dealt with only bread and pastries. During our initial recce, we had been warmly greeted by its proprietor, an affable larger-than-life gentleman with a passion for bodybuilding. He had engaged us in an interesting conversation about the cafe
’s history while serving us their traditional fare and understood the gravity of what we were trying to accomplish. He had arranged for the cafe to be kept open after closure (they make morning bread and close by noon on weekends) so we had a supportive team helping us capture its quaint and intimate space.
Zarine and her grandson kept us entertained as we moved through the interiors at our own pace, and moved out into the narrow street and blocked it temporarily to capture the façade. One of our favourite spaces in the story, with old machinery, a beautiful colour palette and patina to match, Anthony captured it to his heart’s content.
We then headed to B. Merwan & Co., which was always bound to be a big challenge, given that the cafe was illuminated solely by artificial lighting and had little natural light except for its two main entrances. On top of this, the place was open all days of the week, making it crowded at any point in time. As we went in and waited, our producer got into the thick of conversation and the owner, an affable octogenarian, agreed to close the shop for a brief period despite the steady inflow of customers. It was an unbelievably generous gesture from him, and in a moment, reaffirmed the value of what we were trying to capture, the indefinable beauty of everything Parsi.
After his agreement, we had to still solve a practical problem. The cafe’s two entrances were the only source of natural light and we could not close them, but neither could we allow the eager customers to come in while shooting. A team of fascinated waiters, joined by our driver, came to the rescue and turned bouncers on the street so that no one would walk in while we ran through the space composing our shots. After some adventure, we managed to wrap up the shoot at the last of our interiors, with some time to spare.
Looking back at our hurried foray into the exquisite world of these cafes, mixed with sprints and waits, we left with a sense of contentment—encountering fascinating people while discovering extraordinary spaces that hold within them timeless memories of a cuisine, and a community.