Posts Tagged ‘Delhi’

London School of Economics Cities Programme

Monday, November 17th, 2014

Some assignments are straightforward, some take a bit more thought. When the London School of Economics assigned me to photograph Delhi for their global cities conference I was delighted but also slightly nervous.

The brief was to image the city illustrating the difficulties of living in and governing India’s sprawling, chaotic capital. My preference is always to try and make beautiful pictures – but trying to marry that with an exacting shoot list that focused on academic concepts was always going to be challenging. It was however, the shoot list (and my drivers and assistants – notably the ever-cool Sunayana) that saved me. I’m always talking about the importance of scripting what you shoot and this was a perfect example of how it can really help. This wasn’t an assignment about what I wanted to show of Delhi or interpreting the city – but clearly illustrating issues that affect it. In fact, it was a very interesting way to work – trying to find places or people that evidenced concepts as diverse as public/private space and illegal adaptions of utilities.

Born and brought up in London, I’m fascinated by cities and the way that they develop and change and Delhi for me has been a kind of surrogate city – a sort of prism through which to view myself and see how metropolises (and I dare you to find the correct plural of metropolis…) evolve and change. Delhi, like London is palimpsestic in that cities have been built on top of cities. I can walk through any number of places in Delhi and find the exact same things that Dickens wrote about for example – the very foundations of a modern industrial world – but I can also find something much older – the Vedic prayers intoned by people still worshipping on the banks of the hideously polluted Yamuna.

One of the highlights was returning to Kathputli Colony that I’ve written about before and making work with the people there trying to save their homes and way of life. I was delighted to be re-united with the singer Bhagwan Das and it is his wife Sarbati that’s shown at the end in the last picture here at the conference in front of a giant poster and on the cover of the magazine.

Here are some of the images that I made.

 

 

India - New Delhi - An overview of the city from an apartment block in Dwarka

India – New Delhi – An overview of the city from an apartment block in Dwarka

 

India - New Delhi - A man  seen through a tangle of illegal electricity and water cables in the Munika area.

India – New Delhi – A man seen through a tangle of illegal electricity and water cables in the Munika area.

 

India - Delhi - A local meeting of residents and activists at Kathputli Colony that is faced with destruction and closure

India – Delhi – A local meeting of residents and activists at Kathputli Colony that is faced with destruction and closure

 

India - Delhi - Crowds in Sadar Bazaar

India – Delhi – Crowds in Sadar Bazaar

 

India - New Delhi - Young people in make up perform a street dance on a road blocked to cars in a section of Connaught Place during a Raahgiri Day

India – New Delhi – Young people in make up perform a street dance on a road blocked to cars in a section of Connaught Place during a Raahgiri Day where traffic is halted and people take over the streets.

 

India - New Delhi - Traffic and Metro construction work at South Extension Market

India – New Delhi – Traffic and Metro construction work at South Extension Market

 

India - Delhi - Workers on the new footbridge over the Yamuna River

India – Delhi – Workers on the new footbridge over the Yamuna River

 

India - Delhi - A romantic couple sit in the gardens of the Ambiance Mall, Saket,

India – Delhi – A romantic couple sit in the gardens of the Ambiance Mall, Saket,

 

India - New Delhi - Sarbati Das from Kathputli Colony (in front of her cover image used as a poster at the LSE Cities Conference) and the excellent Sunayana Wadhawan

India – New Delhi – Sarbati Das from Kathputli Colony (in front of her cover image used as a poster at the LSE Cities Conference) and the brilliant Sunayana.

Missing Delhi mornings

Sunday, May 25th, 2014

 

India - Delhi - A man lounges inside the remains of the Sultan Singh Ghar ki Haveli. Much of Old Delhi's historical architecture is being lost to new development. Old Delhi, India

India – Delhi – A man lounges with his morning newspaper inside the remains of the Sultan Singh Ghar ki Haveli. Much of Old Delhi’s historical architecture is being lost to new development. Old Delhi, India

 

World Water Day

Thursday, March 20th, 2014

 

By tomorrow night, according to Human Rights Watch, more than 1,800 children will have died from preventable, treatable diarrhea, largely linked to lack of clean water and sanitary conditions.

I’ve written several times about Delhi’s water wars and the struggle for its people to find any water, let alone clean water – (see here and here for a start). Here’s an image from the Kusumpur Pahari slum where that struggle for water is a daily one.

 

India - Delhi - A woman carries water delivered by tanker back to her home in the slum of Kusumpur Pahari. The slum, built more than thirty years ago has no running water or sewage facilities. The only water supply come from the Municipal  JAL Board water trucks that visit several times a day. The deliveries are supposed to be free but in reality, residents must pay bribes to have the water delivered.

India – Delhi – A woman carries water delivered by tanker back to her home in the slum of Kusumpur Pahari. The slum, built more than thirty years ago has no running water or sewage facilities. The only water supply come from the Municipal JAL Board water trucks that visit several times a day. The deliveries are supposed to be free but in reality, residents must pay bribes to have the water delivered.

Kathputli Colony’s last stand

Monday, February 3rd, 2014

 

I’ve written several times over the last few years about Delhi’s Kathputli Colony (or as I knew it, Shadipur Depot) – that Dickensian maze of street performers and magicians that somehow floats on the imagination of the city. This time however, it looks like the city will finally swallow the place. According to Tehelka Magazine, residents of the ‘illegal’ slum – some 3500 families that have been there for forty years – may have to move soon to a re-development far to the North. The site at Shadipur where the land was once worthless is now, as the city grows, worth a fortune. It was sold by the the Delhi Development Authority in 2009 to the Mumbai-beased Raheja Builders however, at what Tehelka suggests was seriously undervalued price to make way for a high rise developments. These would, it was promised, include social housing for the performers families. It seems though that even on paper, the proposed number of dwellings for the artists is far short of the actual number needed. Perhaps with some good reason, the artists families don’t believe that the authorities will make good on their promises to allow them back to the area when it is developed. The project is now stuck in limbo as the Delhi Urban Arts Commission has objected to it. The traditional performers are caught. If they move, they lose their homes and their livelihoods. If they stay, they are likely to be evicted and from previous scenarios that may well be violent. They know however that they are simply powerless actors in a city’s development, caught as they are between tradition and a very cruel version of modernity. Since I made a story in Shadipur nearly a dozen years ago, quite a few photographers have worked here and a film was even made of the struggles of the residents. In some senses it was an easy story; a fairy tale in a bleak metropolis. Most people’s recent treatment of it completely ignored the fact that as Delhi grows and divides even more sharply between those that produce it’s wealth and those that exploit it, the story is no longer about a quaint tinsel-town slum. It is about how Delhi will look in the future. It is about what kind of society India wants for its cities and its people.

In 2010 I wrote about the city’s sweeping of street vendors off the pavements before the Commonwealth Games and I mentioned the excellent book, Trickster City, a collection of writings by those at the sharp end of the slum clearances. As I wrote then

The irony is that many countries celebrate their street culture … and make them a tourist attraction: one has only to think of Singapore and Vietnam. Delhi’s depressing desire to imitate a corporate driven monoculture is certain to lead to a lessening of the city’s heritage.

As I’ve said many times here, I have no sentimental attachment to poverty and no Raj-tinted spectacles through which I view Delhi. I both hate and love the city but the scales are now tipped so far against certain sections of its people that I find it difficult sometimes to walk it’s streets and look some people in the eye.

You can see my original set from Shadipur here

I’ve decided to show some less well known images from the set – some that I have rediscovered. I hope you like them.

 

India - New Delhi - Reenu, 15 and her brother practice their contortions. Reenu and her family are trained by her mother, herself a former acrobat. The children, when babies, were stretched and contorted to make their bones pliable for the act. Shadipur Depot, New Delhi, India.The Kathiputli Colony in the Shadipur Depot slum is home to hundreds of (originally Rajasthani) performers. The artistes who live here - from magicians, acrobats, musicians, dancers and puppeteers are often international renowed by always return to the Shadipur slum.

India – New Delhi – Reenu, 15 and her brother practice their contortions. Reenu and her family are trained by her mother, herself a former acrobat. The children, when babies, were stretched and contorted to make their bones pliable for the act. The Kathiputli Colony in the Shadipur Depot slum is home to hundreds of (originally Rajasthani) performers. The artistes who live here – from magicians, acrobats, musicians, dancers and puppeteers are often international renowed but always return to the Shadipur slum.

 

India - New Delhi - A performers son in a gold shirt, Shadipur Depot,

India – New Delhi – A performers son in a gold shirt, Shadipur Depot,

 

Indian - New Delhi - A man and his performing monkeys. The Kathiputli Colony in the Shadipur Depot

Indian – New Delhi – A man and his performing monkeys. The Kathiputli Colony in Shadipur Depot

 

India - New Delhi - Chand Pasha, a magician produces a bird from his sleeve

India – New Delhi – Chand Pasha, a magician produces a bird from his sleeve

 

India - New Delhi - A boy on his way to perform his magic act at a wedding waits for a lift by the side of the road

India – New Delhi – A boy on his way to perform his magic act at a wedding waits for a lift by the side of the road, Shadipur Depot

 

 

 

A big lump of red

Monday, October 7th, 2013

 

I feel the weather turning. The mornings are colder. I hate it. I need cheering up. Here’s a picture with a big lump of red in it to do that.

 

India - New Delhi - A stage set for a wedding with chairs and garlands

India – New Delhi – A stage set for a wedding with chairs and garlands

 

Why did I choose this image? Just chatting to Michael Regnier at Panos. Sparked a thought about a lyric – John Foxx’s Hiroshima mon amour. Wonderful… “Features fused like shattered glass, the sun’s so low/Turns our silhouettes to gold/Hiroshima mon amour”

No relation to Delhi of course, but that image of light… I can feel the warmth of the late afternoon sun in the big lump of red…

 

Tearsheet – Independent Magazine

Thursday, June 6th, 2013

 

Here’s a recent tearsheet – a cover and two stories – from the Independent on Sunday Magazine. Firstly, a piece on Fergus Drennan, (also known a s Fergus the Forager who I’ve written about and photographed before) and a piece on Karims restaurant in Old Delhi.

 

Spring-food-covera

Fergus1a

 

 

Fergus2a

 

Fergus3a

 

Karims1a

 

Karims2a

From my Delhi window…

Monday, April 1st, 2013

 

Glanced out of my window this afternoon and saw this chap…

 

India - New Delhi -

India – New Delhi – A hawk sits in a tree

A very Indian intimacy

Thursday, February 14th, 2013

 

Appropriately on Valentine’s Day, the New York Times carries a piece today about the changing landscape of romance and especially kissing in Indian society. During my project about documenting Delhi’s green spaces, I photographed many couples seeking intimacy in public places unable to do so at home. Here are a couple of images from the series Public Spaces, Private Lives. A fuller set ran on the Camera Obscura blog in 2009 with a little interview about the work.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

 

India - New Delhi -

India – New Delhi – A couple hold hands in the park at India Gate. Public displays of affection are rare in a conservative city like Delhi. The parks and open spaces however are often full of romantic couples away from the prying eyes of traditional families

 

 

India - New Delhi -

India – New Delhi – A couple in the grounds of the Purana Qila share an intimate moment

 

EPUK showcase

Thursday, November 1st, 2012

 

Delighted to be featured again on the EPUK showcase with some work from Delhi that will be shown at the Amnesty Festival in Jersey as part of my exhibition, The Art of Getting By

 

The Art of Getting By – an exhibition

Tuesday, October 9th, 2012

 

I’m delighted to announce that my exhibition – The Art of Getting By – will open the 8th Jersey Amnesty International Human Rights Festival where I’ll be doing some teaching and workshops.

 

India – Delhi – A mentally ill man kisses his wife who visits him in the secure ward at the Institute of Human Behaviour and Allied Sciences

 

The French, as always have a word for it. Débrouillardise. The art of getting by – resourcefulness – surviving and laughing. I heard it first in French Africa in the ‘90s and I realised that I have been trying over the last two decades (even before I really knew the word) to make it a motif in the reportage that I made in even the most difficult circumstances. It is no less than the human condition – why shouldn’t the poor, the maimed, the brutalised somehow steal a smile, fall in love? A determination to live. To be normal. To be just like us.

These images are not romantic – although I hope that some are beautiful – rather they reflect the everyday struggles of common people. They also aren’t meant as rosy depictions of poverty from an outsider and they aren’t meant to patronise. I have worked consistently in the Developing World for most of my career and that was a choice made from the low horizons of my own childhood and the desire to escape the grey landscape of a Hackney past.

I consciously sought difference but found similarity and common ground.

These images are taken from stories from many countries. They show people touched by war and poverty living as best they can. They are small stories from larger narratives and by and large show small lives but they are no less important for that.

For me, this is a kind of retrospective: photographs of what I have tried to see – sometimes forced myself to see – to remember that the world is not dark, dangerous and other, but that it is beautiful and full of life.

You just have to know where to look.

 

My enormous thanks to Stuart Smith for curating and Metro for printing