Meet the female firefighters of Mumbai’s Wadala Fire Station in Nico Therin’s recent photoseries

The French photographer gives us a glimpse of the human, in-between moments in the lives of these disciplined women.

22 April 2020
Reading Time
3 minute read


“I’m curious and I love people watching,” New York City-based photographer Nico Therin tells us. In turn, Nico’s photo series often hone in on one subject or community – something which previously captured his attention enough to get written down in his notebook. “The way people live and move through life fascinates me, and I’m always looking to find everyday moments in places outside of my own everyday,” he continues. “The more I collect and experience these moments, the more I feel attached to the world around me.”

In the past, this has seen Nico focus his lens of a Compton dance troupe, wrestlers in Senegal, a basketball club in Brooklyn and even the famous Tsukiji fish market in Japan. Nico’s most recent series, however, shines a light on a group of incredible female firefighters in Mumbai.

A personal project made possible with the help of Mumbai-based producer Lavaanya Garg, Nico first learned of this group when in India photographer a fair last year. “I saw a female firefighter pass by in a truck,” he recalls, and true to form, he “did some research, and came across the Wadala Fire Station in Mumbai, one of the few gender-integrated fire brigades in India.” What drew him to this group, therefore, was the unique feminine sensibility that they bring to their profession, in addition to defying stereotypes and meeting the physical requirements of their male counterparts.

GalleryNico Therin: Mumbai Female Firefighters

When working on a documentary series, Nico likes to try and capture a “genuine happiness and togetherness.” In terms of how he captures this, he’s developed a process influences by what he thinks of as “weightless” moments – “blurred moments between two clear actions.” Nico describes this in more detail: “The example I often use is when you’re driving and you see something familiar out of the corner of your eye, you turn around to find this moment and to catch a better glimpse, but it’s already passed. I take a collaborative approach with my subjects to celebrate them, most often through movement and proximity. I’m captivated by things that bring people together, and the customs and traditions that come with it.”

This means that, during a shoot, he often tries to blend into the background and be part of the scene he is capturing. But for one particular image – a favourite of his from the series – which shows the firefighters running along before a drill, in big boots and wearing helmets. “I started running alongside them with my camera to capture the scene,” Nico tells us. Each firefighter “cracked a discreet smile in response to me running along them with my camera, which actually ended up giving the image a certain sense of comfort.”

Throughout the series, Nico documents the daily regimentation of the Wadala Fire Station, providing a glimpse into what exactly a day at the office for these women entails. There’s a formality to the work but it feels, as Nico describes, just out of the frame, as we become privy to the in-between moments, the more human moments, of this well-disciplined group.

Having only recently moved to New York after a ten-year stint in Los Angeles, Nico, who’s originally from southwest France, tells us he’s thinking of relocating again. “I’ve been living in the US now almost all of my adult life, so I’ve developed a romantic idea of what it means to be French. I’d like to spend more time in France and approach this perhaps idealistic view that I have of where I grew up with my photographer’s hat on,” he explains. We’ll look forward to seeing what unusual aspect of French culture or society Nico uncovers. But for now, he’s staying home and “trying to find colourful moments of happiness.”

GalleryNico Therin: Mumbai Female Firefighters

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Ruby Boddington

Ruby joined the It’s Nice That team as an editorial assistant in September 2017 after graduating from the Graphic Communication Design course at Central Saint Martins. In April 2018, she became a staff writer and in August 2019, she was made associate editor. Get in contact with Ruby about ideas you may have for long-form stories on the site.

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