For many of us, candyfloss can whip up memories of visiting funfairs, whirling rides and dodgy stomachs. For the people of Mumbai, cotton candy is an affordable treat, sold by sellers not far from the Indian city's local beaches. London-based photographer Jon Enoch captures it all in his latest portrait series, The Candy Men.
Taken at night, the images feature vivid pink sugar clouds towering above each seller as they carry a load of candyfloss on their backs using various wooden sticks and props. The men who live and work in the western sprawl of Mumbai create these impressive displays to stand out and attract attention at the various fairs along the coast.
Candyfloss is just one of many new additions to Mumbai of late – India's most populous city and home to Bollywood superstars and the country's growing financial centre. This recent economic expansion is encouraging, but it inevitably comes with downsides, such as a growing obesity and dental crisis.
Slowly but surely, Lassi, fresh juices and home-cooked foods are being replaced with an explosion of cheap sugar. As such, candyfloss and brightly coloured Indian sweets are becoming more popular. But unfortunately, they have been found to sometimes use banned artificial food colouring, specifically Rhodamine B, a staining fluorescent dye, forbidden because it's " potentially "potentially carcinogenic" and "unfit for human consumption".
"When I read that the desire to create the perfect eye-catching bright pink candy floss often leads to unauthorised colouring agents being added to the mix, I thought it's the perfect metaphor for the ills of our time," says Jon. "My photography projects tend to capture a fast-changing world and how traditional aspects of a large city are changing – for better or worse – through embracing modernity."
Each portrait feels more dramatic as Jon chooses to shoot after dark. "Partly due to logistics, as it's cooler and usually quieter, and partly because it gives me the chance to experiment with lighting and create a specific portrait of these candyfloss sellers," Jon explains. "However, I found it fascinating that in Mumbai, it was never quiet, and it was hard to find a space that wasn't crammed with people. Life just goes on – day and night!"
An award-winning lifestyle and portrait photographer, Jon Enoch won the prestigious Smithsonian Award in 2020 for his images of Hanoi motorcycle delivery drivers and was also nominated for the Sony World Photography Awards, Portraits of Humanity and The AOP Awards. His latest series, The Candy Men, follows a similar project documenting the use of mopeds in Hanoi. See more of his recent work at jonenoch.com.