A Meander Through a Vibrant Fish Market in India


Charlie and I were leaving early morning to head to the fish market on one of those morning highs that is typical with a lot of coffee intake. But this morning there was no coffee – only fish. The last 40 minutes were spent walking around taking photos. It was a small space packed with colorful locals and two tourists with a permanent smile on our faces as our only way of communicating.

fish market india

Why do I like photographing markets so much? I wasn’t sure except that it was invigorated by the process.

I thought about the question for a while and decided that the joy for me was sort of getting a peak behind the veneer that we construct in the food industry in the US. All of this stuff happens in the US in order to get our fish to our table, but we only see the nicely packaged parts that people want us to see. We are protected. I suppose there is an element of getting let in on a secret when I go to the local markets around the world.

fish auction

Another element is that it awakens my imagination and requires me to solve a puzzle. With no real way to communicate or ask questions, I am forced to be a detective. Why are the fish laying on the ground in little piles? What is the boy doing with the yellow piece of paper? Who is the man who is addressing the crowd? Can anyone enter their fish in the auction or is it restricted? How do people get paid? What are they writing on that piece of paper?

So many questions and no answers leave me the chance to solve the mystery and make up my own stories. It’s an exercise in creativity. Anyone can come and dump their bag of fish on the ground as long as they are in a neat pile.

The young boy writes the name of the fish and the ‘seller’ on the piece of yellow paper and lets it drift down onto the pile. People walk around and look at the quality of all of the piles while socializing at the same time. The auctioneer starts at a pile and yells out a starting price and watches people bid with practically unnoticeable gestures, driving the prices up. A winner is determined and quickly the fish are scooped up and the auctioneer moves on while the crowd follows him from pile to pile. The winning bid pays for their fish over at a table in the corner. At least that’s how the story went in my brain.

I have absolutely no idea if it’s right or I’m even close, but it was exciting to make it up and try to fit all of the puzzle pieces together.

And that’s why I love going to markets, especially ones like this little fish market near the Soma Kerala Palace we were staying at. It was purely local, only about fish, and the veneer was off.

Fish market india

Determining price


fish market india

Circles of Fish



A shy smile


fish marketi india

Fish sorting

buying fish

Money exchange


fish auction india

Preparing for the auction – little piles of fish on display


fish market

Fish market

fish market india

Do you love photographing markets? Why?

Sherry Ott
Sherry Ott is a refugee from corporate IT who is now a long term traveler, blogger, and photographer. She’s a co-founder of Briefcasetobackpack.com, a website offering career break travel inspiration and advice.

Additionally, she runs an around the world travel blog writing about her travel and expat adventures at Ottsworld.com.com.
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