davidgoldmanphoto

What could she possibly be smiling about?

In Uncategorized on December 31, 2015 at 12:51 pm

The heat, oh the heat!  I guessI knew in an abstract way that it would be hot in India this time of year. Sure, I’ve been to hot climates or at least I thought I had. I mean Africa (okay it was November) but I live in NYC, it’s so hot in summer their and the humidity can do you in. Still the heat I’m feeling here in Delhi is really kind of crazy! It’s over 100 degrees every day. I’m feeling more than a little disgusting and sticking to myself, I don’t want anything to touch me, I’m starting to dream of a shower, not literally but I am thinking about it hard. I know it’s going to happen and a cold shower sounds just about right. Knowing that I’m going to take that shower is something I can really hook myself into. Knowing that things change for me when I leave this place and that I CAN leave this place is really all the comfort I need at this moment.

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A dog cools off in an open sewer.

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Kids playing in an open sewer.

Kids playing in an open sewer.

Still this is not a story about my suffering, it’s a little story of how I came to be with and document the De-Notified and Freed Criminal tribes of India. Two weeks ago I had not even heard of these tribes but since arriving in India and working with Ruchira Gupta and her NGO www.apneaap.org I’ve learnt quite a bit and you can certainly look it up online to learn more but the bottom line is during the British rule they labeled these tribes who were as they said “addicted to the systematic commission of non-bail able offenses” Once a tribe became “notified” as criminal, all its members were required to register with the local magistrate, failing which they would be charged with a crime under the Indian Penal Code. The Criminal Tribes Act of 1952 repealed the notification, i.e. ‘de-notified’ the tribal communities. This act, however, was replaced by a series of Habitual Offenders Acts, that asked police to investigate a suspect’s criminal tendencies and whether his occupation is “conducive to settled way of life.” The de-notified tribes were reclassified as habitual offenders in 1959. So basically these tribes were essentially given a scarlet letter and even though the law was repealed when India got it’s independence the damage was done. Stigmatized and marginalized within a society that often falls back on a caste system these groups do not even qualify for the lowest caste. As such they are treated with very little respect and find themselves living on the fringes in abject poverty. Setting up little tent cities on side roads with limited opportunity for adequate income.

As a result of the limited financial income options they are often forced to turn their daughters and daughters-in-law to prostitution and their sons to pimping.

As a documentary photographer I have seen a lot of poverty in India, Bangladesh, Africa and Australia but what I witnessed within the community of these DNT’s was far beyond what I had seen in the past. With barefoot children and adults thin and frail in tattered clothes performing the most basic of services like blowing up balloons to sell on the street.

A young girl from the De-notified tribe blows up a balloon to sell on the street.

A young girl from the De-notified tribe blows up a balloon to sell on the street.

Since it was so hot out many people were just taking refuge in their makeshift tents and sleeping while others were on beds on the edge of the road. When I finally got out of the car I was greeted with warmth and kindness. Young kids practicing their English on me “ what is your name?” “my name is David, what is your name?” they would giggle and repeat my name, “hello Dabid, my name is….”

Huge smiles stretched across their faces as they asked to be photographed. Each child trying to one up another and taking the main focus of the composition. How could they be so happy I thought to myself, living like this? When their very lives seem so precarious not knowing where the next meal will come from never mind safety or education.

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We set up to photograph some portraits of the kids and adults to try and create images that would help to quickly tell a story of what goes on for these individuals to whomever viewed them. Communication was tough but thanks to Jasneet from apneaap we were able to get some great images.

It’s never my goal or intention to show people in a bad light, I try to focus on the positive and the human spirit. My goal is to make a “human connection” with whomever I photograph and with these individuals in a very short time I believe a trust was forged.

After about an hour or so we said goodbye and started to head back to the office of apneaap and I was scrolling through some of the images of the day. I was struck by the portrait of one little girl. She is using a pump to fill up a balloon to later sell on the street. I found myself getting a bit emotional while looking at this image. She was so sweet-looking but even more than that she reminded me of my little cousin. How is it that one person can be so lucky to be born in to a family that is financially and emotionally stable with all the love and support around her, not wanting for anything while another little girl is born into what appears to be the complete opposite. One with every chance provided to her to succeed having essentially won the lottery on life and one not even having enough money to buy a ticket for that lottery #thebirthlottery.

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So many of us are annoyed when a beggar comes up to us and asks for money or is trying to sell some knickknack. I know I was like this but after meeting these people I have a new understanding for these kids. Certainly it’s not their choice to be in this situation. There are many reasons they are there. The obvious of course to make some money but there is also organized crime that manages these people.

I think a society can be judged on how well it takes care of it’s people and unfortunately in the case of what is going on with these De-Notified tribes there is a great failure going on. Nobody should go without education or basic necessities. Growing up without them almost guarantees that the cycle will continue.

There is hope though! With organizations like what Ruchira Gupta at Apne Aap have created bringing attention to these people and their at risk children is imperative to helping to make a change. To force the government to recognize these people, help them to get their Indian identites so that they can qualify for social services. Make them aware of what is theirs to help create a sweeping change

This little girl is getting an education thanks to the work of Apneaap.

This little girl is getting an education thanks to the work of Apneaap.

IN OUR LIFETIME!!

Two parts down, One big one to go!

In Documentary work, India, Migrant Sugarcane Workers on February 17, 2015 at 5:07 pm

It was my birthday last week, Feb 10. I turned 45! I know, I can’t believe it either. People say to me all the time, they say David you don’t look 45 and then I say but I am, I am 45 only I used to say 44 and before that 43. I think you get the point. I always kind of take it as a bit of a backhanded compliment. Like WOW 45 is totally old but at least you don’t look it. Maybe so but the numbers are the numbers and they don’t tell lies.

The point of me bringing up my birthday is simply that I’ve been home for about as long as I was away in India now. Just yesterday I finally finished going through all the stills, audio recordings and motion footage from the Migrant Sugarcane Project. It really does take a long time to do. Sure, I could have finished it up sooner but with the amount of files I came home with I just needed time to absorb it all. Fully absorbed in photos now I’m starting to consider the narrative. Truth be told I’ve been considering the narrative for some time. As I think I’ve mentioned before, when I first was made aware of these sugarcane workers I felt that they were being commoditized and exploited, underpaid and overworked. That view is not untrue however, it’s not as simple as coming in and making a sweeping statement like that. My hope is to point out some of the nuances of this kind of life and of the challenges and rewards that these very hard working people face on a daily basis.

I am so lucky to have been born in Canada, raised by a loving family and then when it was time for me to go in search of what inspired me I had the freedom to do it. I simply packed up my car, my dog and my mountain bike and headed to California. Nobody told me I couldn’t do it. It just seemed my right and I took it. It has not been lost on me that I won the lottery. I pretty much do what I want every day of my life. Certainly there are consequences if I don’t work but every day I wake up and face the day as if I’m capable of just about anything I set my mind to. WOW what a luxury!

Like many of you out there I take my coffee with sugar. Like many of you out there I had never really thought about where sugar came from beyond the most rudimentary perspective. I’m going to show you where that sugar comes from and tell you about the people that are harvesting the sugarcane then taking it to factories to be ground up, boiled down and spun around in order to turn into that yummy white sugar we are so addicted to. Helping to give us diabetes, cancer, obesity and who knows what else.

 A sign at a bus rest stop on the 12 hour ride back to Bangalore from Mudhol, India.

A sign at a bus rest stop on the 12 hour ride back to Bangalore from Mudhol, India.

Setting up camp.

Setting up camp.

A migrant sugarcane worker.

A migrant sugarcane worker.

A cart with tons of Sugarcane has flipped over.

A cart with tons of Sugarcane has flipped over because it was overpacked and broke an axel.

The story is coming soon, the images are getting pushed and pulled into different sizes, styles and other descriptive things that I can’t remember what are called. Video will soon be edited and words will be written. Don’t worry someone else will do the proof reading. I’m excited about switching gears from creating the work to curating it. Stand by and don’t forget to check out my Instagram link as well as my Facebook page for outtakes and images that I simply can’t wait for you to see.

David

 

 

 

 

If it was not for you.

In 60 Minutes, Bob Simon, Documentary work on February 17, 2015 at 5:06 pm

Last week I came home from a really great first date (maybe I should’t say that so as to avoid jinxing it) and received a text from a friend who I have been on the outs with for around 7 months. He told me Bob Simon had been killed in a car crash in NYC.

I quickly turned on the computer and scavenged around looking for more information. It turned out to be true. Bob was riding in the back of a livery car on the west side highway (if I’m correct) his car sideswiped another car and then smashed into the medium between the oncoming lane. Bob died of a broken neck and internal injuries. I was devastated to hear this.

I had met Bob Simon a number of years back at an event based around the title of “Courage” Bob was talking about his time held as a hostage in 1991 during the first Gulf War. I didn’t know much about him prior to that event. I had seen 60 Minutes many times before and loved the show but felt no specific connection to anyone there. However, I went up to him after his talk and introduced myself and asked if he would be open to me photographing him for a portrait. He said sure and gave me his email.

A few weeks later I went up to the offices of 60 minutes to do a portrait. Bob was really generous with his time. Here I was a nobody to him and with no agenda whatsoever he is allowing me to do a portrait. I was not hired, I knew nobody at CBS and was totally unconnected but that didn’t matter to him.

I spent about 35 min with him and during that time we chatted about war and peace and the crazy times we were in. There was such a calm with him, he had seen it all from Viet Nam to 9-11 and so much more.

We finished up and a few weeks later I came by to give him a copy of some the prints. He really seemed to like the images. I asked him if he could introduce me to Morley Safer another original correspondent at 60 Minutes. Morley took my call and we arranged to do a portrait of him. In a few months I had photographed all the current correspondents and even Andy Rooney for what I think was probably his last real sitting for a portrait.

Bob Simon did that for me!

Later that night I sent a little note to Jeff Fager the executive producer at 60 Minutes to send my condolences and share a memory with him. I sent two of my favorite images from our session.

The following night at the end of the CBS nightly news they took a moment to remember Bob and in doing so they used my image of him. I’ve never had such mixed feelings in my life. I was so happy and blown away to see a photo that I had taken on the news but profoundly sad. I would prefer never to see that image for those reasons.

I will never forget what his generosity did for me.

Please wear your seatbelt, even in the back of a cab!!

You can see all of the portraits I took at the 60 minutes offices here

David

Bob Simon memorial image at the end of the nightly news. Feb, 12 2015

Bob Simon memorial image at the end of the nightly news. Feb, 12 2015

Bob Simon ©davidgoldmanphoto.com

Bob Simon ©davidgoldmanphoto.com

Bob Simon ©davidgoldmanphoto.com

Bob Simon ©davidgoldmanphoto.com

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