Growing Old in India


I have, for a long time been photographing around aspects of a changing India. These images, currently being syndicated, show a gentle side of a huge demographic change in that country. It is estimated that by 2020, the elderly population in India will nearly double to 150 million people. Better medical care and low fertility rates have made the elderly the fastest growing section of society. New wealth and urbanisation are starting to erode the foundations of traditional values and kinship. Today fewer than 40 percent of Indians live in so-called “joint families” where brothers share the family home with their parents even after they are married. In a country where only 10 per cent has any form of pension, “old people have to work till they die” says Mathew Cherian, Help Age India’s chief executive. Even specialised medical care is rare, as India has only two medical colleges in the entire country teaching geriatric care. After the Asian Tsunami, HelpAge India set up a pioneering experimental scheme called the Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village (TEV) in Tamil Nadu that initially cared for elderly people displaced by the tragedy. Today, the village is a self-sustaining community providing a family environment where more able-bodied residents assist the less able-bodied. The village provides 100 older people with a safe place to live, free healthcare, emotional security, a good diet and professional support.

I was fortunate enough to visit for a few days and make some work there. Work that for personal reasons has an enormous resonance for me.

Despite great effort (especially on the part of Jon Jones at the Sunday Times Magazine) they remain unpublished. Of all the stories that I have shot over the last few years, I really want to see this run somewhere: not because my images are so wonderful but rather because of what they show and the issue that they address.

My agency, Panos is syndicating a 35 image set that can be viewed here.

Here are seven of my favourites.



India – Tamil Nadu – Meena, 65 pretends to hit a male nurse with a crutch after he teased Janagi, 76 who is always cleaning around the village. Tamaraikulum Elders village, Tamil Nadu, India


India – Tamil Nadu – Manjani, 75 inside his room.


India – Tamil Nadu – An elderly resident shares a joke with her social worker in her room.


India – Tamil Nadu – Ganapadi and his wife, Khrisaveni residents in their room.


India – Tamil Nadu – A daily exercise class for residents.


India – Tamil Nadu – An elderly resident stretches and takes the morning air at dawn by the lake at the Tamaraikulam Elders’ Village


India – Tamil Nadu – Meena, 65, an elderly resident, makes a fuss of one of the villages two dogs


A website update

I’m very pleased to announce that my website has had a refresh. There’s an improved and reordered navigation down the left hand side showcasing an updated Commercial section (that now includes images from the Non-Profit sector and imagery from recent jobs) and a restructuring of my Travel work divided into two clearer sections.

There are also some new stories in the New Work section – a set from Kashmir on the Wazwan (more about that soon) and one on the new East End.

I hope you enjoy the update(s).

Burundi – slipping back

I read with great regret a small piece from the Economist that tells of a ‘souring mood’ in the tiny African country, Burundi. It seems that opposition forces have again taken to the hills after around three hundred of their number have been killed since July and dozens arrested. Much of this goes back to the 2010 election which, despite the International community declaring reasonably fair was greeted by anger from the forces opposing President Nkurunziza. I worked several times in Burundi during the last twelve years – assignments ranged from looking at the so-called Regroupment camps where the Tutsi government corralled Hutu peasants ‘for their own safety’ in appalling conditions (as part of a global series called The Politics of Hunger) to looking at the steps to reconciliation with the Bashingantahe councils. I also photographed and wrote about the extraordinary Marguerite Barankitse, The Angel of Burundi who adopted children of all tribes amidst the terrible violence of the Civil War. I fear that her heroism and devotion will be called on again.

On Monday, The Forces for National Liberation (FNL) leader Agathon Rwasa, whom Burundian authorities believe is hiding along with fellow combatants in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo, called on Nkurunziza to step down. Reuters are reporting this as a declaration of war. I sincerely hope that they are wrong.



Burundi – Bujambura – President Buyoya speaks at May Day rally


Burundi – Buhonga – A Hutu child carries water in a tin up a steep hill in Buhonga Regroupment camp


Burundi – Buhonga – A malnourished Hutu peasant woman receives treatment at a medical centre. She is part of the ethnic Hutu population that has been internally exiled from their land by the Tutsi military in order to cut aid to Hutu rebels.


Burundi – Buhonga – A peasant cultivates land in Buhonga Regroupment Camp watched by a soldier. He is part of the ethnic Hutu population that has been internally exiled from their land by the Tutsi military in order to cut aid to Hutu rebels.


Burundi – Buhonga – Hutu peasant family cultivates a small patch of land within their regroupment camp


Burundi – Ruyigi – A counsel of the Bashingantahe (roughly meaning ‘wisemen’) meet to settle a dispute in their commune. The Bashingantahe, a traditional court system, have been successfully resolving disputes concerning the civil war and issues of forgiveness and acceptance.