Saturday, May 21, 2016

Migrants + Brick Factory, Uttar Pradesh, India, 2015


On our way up to Uttar Pradesh we decided to venture out on our own in search of communities. We had tried to document two brick factories in Haryana but had little luck doing so due to the suspicions of the owners.

We decided we'd try one more time and were met by a very interesting family, the owners of this factory. They welcomed us with smiles, served us tea and then gave us the freedom to do as we wished with our photography. We decided that we'd come back in the morning for the best light, and the owners left us in the hands of their capable managers.

When we arrived in the morning, the sun was just coming up and we slowly began making photographs of the factory itself… making sure that we were demonstrating our interest in their establishment. We then quickly walked to the end of the brick homes and walked in between them in search of families.

Immediately we ran across people working, and asked permission to photograph the families. There were of course many children, and we included them as well. Most of the families were migrants from the eastern states, traveling here in search of work. What is almost unimaginable is that life for them back home is that much harder.

Here they are, toiling under the hot sun and making bricks for an amount barely equal to their sustenance. Their children cannot attend schools in the area, and they lack the rights of residents as well. Once they begin working in these factories, there is a debt that they need to pay off as well. Their choices are very few since there are hundreds of thousands ready to take their places.

It was a truly heartbreaking setting, and on our way out we sat down to speak with a few of the families. These two beautiful spirits were there, watching as the conversations unfolded. Of course the desire to photograph both was mounting, and I began with the smaller one since that was an easier request. The bricks behind her are the work of her factory, used to build the humble home in which she lives.

The approach to photograph the second girl was more complex, since we needed to ask without seeming overjoyed. While she smiled at the request, she must have also known that approving would seem inappropriate due to her age, and the men looking on. The community however was supportive, even though they wondered why I would be interested in photographing a girl with an obvious physical defect, in their view that is.

This portrait was very important to me, both to show the community that her beauty is as significant as any other… and also to express my respect for this young girl who must endure so much difficulty in an already difficult life.

Can we ever imagine how her life must be?

Outside of the fact that she works in this brick factory, she must face societal pressures that the majority of us cannot even come close to imagining.

She is an inspiration to me, and I am honored that she allowed me to make this portrait of her.


Note: These portraits were made with a Hasselblad 555 ELD/180 mm combination, scanned for proofing only.