Archive for the ‘India’ Category

Born a criminal?

In Denotified Tribes, DNT, Documentary work, India, Uncategorized on May 22, 2017 at 3:11 pm



A baby born to a community living under a highway overpass in Mumbai

How could someone be born a criminal? I thought in the eyes of god we are all created equal or in America we are all created equal. The point is that there are many places that in politics, religion and government they speak of being born equal. Meaning that we all have the same rights and opportunities as one another. The truth is in fact far from that. For the last few years I’ve been working on a project in India that centers around what is called the Denotified and Criminal tribes. Basically this is a large group of nomadic tribes that have been living within the borders of India for hundreds of years if not longer.

Children play while living under a highway overpass in Mumbai

In 1871, the British colonial government enacted the “Criminal Tribes Act” to control supposedly ‘criminal’ communities. Despite the Act’s repeal in 1952 – five years after India gained her independence – these communities continue to have their livelihoods and dignity stripped away. Today they are like ghosts in their own country. Most live on the fringes of society in temporary encampments and extreme poverty. Without permanent housing, they lack official identity and cannot access vital social services or even cast their votes. Education becomes a luxury when children are needed to earn money for the family. Caught in cycles of intergenerational prostitution, a lack of education, and a fear of authority, these once proud communities are amongst India’s most dispossessed.

Saddest of all is that there are many generations born into this world with no idea how or why they are living the way they are. Only that this is there life. #thebirthlottery

Many of these people come from tribes that were made up of artists, musicians, puppeteers and the like. Few are able to practice their crafts these days but the ones that still are have managed to hang on to wonderful skills from the past.


A puppeteer from the Bhat community

Three albino brothers in Delhi, India

Two people sleep on the roof of a building surrounded by a DNT community.

A DNT family in Solapur.


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.






Starting at the end

In fotocare, India, Kolkata, Portraits on December 26, 2014 at 3:41 am

It’s December 26th, 2014 at 11:54 am. I’m sitting in the hotel in Goa, India. I’m listing to Alt-J (really been enjoying this band) I’ve been in India for close to 5 weeks. The shooting is done now. It had been my hope to update this blog during my time here but of course you know the saying about “best laid plans” So with limited internet access I was only occasionally able to sign on and grab some email, upload some Instagram photos. I’m here thanks to the support of the 96 amazing people that contributed to my Indiegogo campaign.

The goal was to to show how the migrant sugarcane worker is commoditized and marginalized while the factory owners, farmers and factory workers thrive. There is no doubt that I was able to show that. However I was presented with another side that I had not considered. This other side gave me pause because more so then ever before I realized I had the power to edit this story in a way that could affect how it’s viewed. On one hand I could show how these migrant workers really have it bad. The challenge for me is that I can also and quite easily show how they are doing very well. Especially compared to other people in the towns and villages that they come from. Places like Beed, India.

So what is the right thing to do? The more I looked into this the more I was left to draw my own conclusions about what is going on here and then dare I say how it should be? I am well aware of how people from the west come into some place with all the answers. Basing issues and problems on how we see it. Giving little to no thought as to how the people in question would actually thrive or at the very least could have their lives improved. I have seen firsthand how the gov’t in Australia stepped into Elcho Island and changed the lives of it’s inhabitants for the worse based on what it thought was best without really taking into consideration what the Aboriginals of the island would want.

So that being said I’m not going to say what I think is best for these people. I don’t know what the right answer is. My photos that will be coming soon to a website will hopefully show the good, the bad and ugly but most important I hope they show the truth. I will add words where I think it will help give clarity.

I think the key thing here is not to compare ones self with another. Be that with wealth, status or power. All we can do is take our own situations and try to improve upon them. There is no doubt that in the sugarcane industry of India, that is exactly what is happening. One viewing the images from the outside could easily say that some individuals are not getting a fair shake while others are profiting disproportionally and that would totally be true. However, by looking deeper one (me) could see that thanks to the opportunities provided by the sugarcane industry there are groups of people (families) that are able to make a living where once there was none. Many are thriving while some will never fully exploit the opportunity they are getting.

The industry is essentially made up of a many working parts. At the top you have the factory, they process the raw sugarcane and within a number of hours turns it into sugar as we know it. There is the farmer, who owns the land and grows the cane. These individuals are generally considered wealthy especially by the local standards. Often the land has been passed down through generations. There are migrant workers who come and harvest the cane from the farmers field. They transport the cane to the factory on wagons connected to Ox carts or larger tractors. Then there are the middle men (Pimps) these people are responsible for finding the migrant workers (called gangs) and sorting out the working arrangements. They are paid by the factory to find the gangs. Then they pay the gangs while skimming a % off the top. They also get paid for finding the gangs in the first place. So essentially they are getting paid from both sides.

1) Factories

2) Farmers (own the land to grow the sugarcane)

3) Migrant farmers (harvest the cane and deliver to the factory)

4) Middle men (arrange for the migrant farmers to come to the farms to harvest the cane)

That is the basic way things play out here. This blog is not designed to go into extreme detail about how it all goes down as that is what the website will show. With this blog I will be showing some images and basically giving my free flowing run at the mouth take on my trip. However, I wanted to lay it out here so you understand the basic how’s and why’s of the people I talk about.

I did a lot of traveling on this project. I started in Mumbai and then went to Bagalkort then drove to Mudhol and spent some time in Bijapur, Bangalore. All of these towns are in the Karnataka province.

I want to make something very clear.  I would not be here if not for the support of the Indiegogo contributors but once I made it to India there is one person who’s help was simply so far over and above what anyone could expect. Without her help I would not have had access to a Sugarcane factory, an interpreter, hotels, drivers and food. So essentially everything. Sunitha Jagannath has been like a mother for me here even though we are essentially the same age. I’m so indebted to her it’s not even funny. Sunitha works for KHPT and I met her two years ago when I was shooting for UN Women. Check out KHPT and see what amazing work they do. The other person I wanted to thank was a man called Panduranga Biradar (Pandu) he is the Head Of R&D at Nandi Sugarcane Factory. This man gave me unprecedented access to the factory and as a result to the migrant workers. He actually gave me a motorcycle to ride around and use to meet workers and even tour the inner workings of the factory. He also allowed me to stay at the guest house for free for over a week. They fed me the most authentic south Indian food and even allowed me to try to make chapati (I failed miserably). When I needed to come back for another day a week later he was more than open to helping me and even said I could stay for a few extra days. Again no doubt I would not have been able to accomplish this story without him. He took the time to show me how they are working on a better irrigation system to create a larger yield of cane that would in turn mean more money for the farmers and the migrant workers who harvest the cane. It was with him that I had to reassess my idea of what was going on at the factory. Not to imply it’s all golden but it was certainly worth more consideration on my part.

I also want to take a moment to thank the amazing sponsors (in no particular order) who helped me with gear for this project. Without them I would not have been able afford to do this story. Their gear is amazing and their help is even more. Supporting photographers to help tell stories that can affect change should not be ignored!!

Fotocare NYC If you need to buy or rent gear, you can’t go wrong!! The unending support from Linda, Fred and Jeff. I’m more grateful than you will ever know!

Manfrotto USA Thanks to Shanna for an amazing carbon tripod and head as well as a Metz flash.

XP Photo Gear Thanks to Xavier for the beautiful small soft boxes that create amazing quality of light from an on camera flash.

Tamrac camera bags Thanks to Spencer, my back thanks you for providing me with an amazing backpack/wheelie bag. It held more than I could carry!

Joby Thanks to Zach for the amazing little gorilla tripod and funky ways to connect my GoPro to just about anything.

Lexar Thanks for the memories!! I wish I could put one of your cards in my brain.

Peak design Thanks to Adam! I honestly was not sure how I would use this product but then I started and could not believe how helpful and cool it was!

Zacuto Thank you Rachel: Made my video taking so much easier. If you are serious about shooting motion with a DSLR then you don’t want to be without some of their products.

Blundstone Boots Okay they don’t sponsor me in anyway shape or form (I have never asked) but these are the best boots and really only boots I wear pretty much all day everyday. With them on I feel like I can walk on or through just about anything and now I need to get a new pair because they are worn out but worn out with love!

Okay, I think that’s a good background to this project.


P.S. Oh you wanted to see some pictures? okay here are a few 🙂 SO much more to come.

This is where it all begins.

This is where it all begins.

This is a farmer. He owns the land that the cane grows on.

This is a farmer. He owns the land that the cane grows on.

Migrant sugarcane worker.

Migrant sugarcane worker.

There is no age discrimination for migrant workers.

There is no age discrimination for migrant workers.

A few tons of cane ready to go to the factory for processing.

A few tons of cane ready to go to the factory for processing.

Tons of cane is dumped on to conveyor belts that run 24hrs a day.

Tons of cane is dumped on to conveyor belts that run 24hrs a day.

Factory workers at the Nandi Sugarcane factory.

Factory workers at the Nandi Sugarcane factory.

Sugar, that's what this is all about.

Sugar, that’s what this is all about.

Sugar into the bags

Sugar into the bags

Me going to work. Didn't want you to think I was calling it in. Go Leafs!

Me going to work. Didn’t want you to think I was calling it in. Go Leafs! (Rope on bag is to secure it to motorcycle).

It’s still Dec 26th/2014 but now it’s 2:01 pm


Gathering my strength (Not giving up)

In Documentary work, fotocare, India on October 31, 2014 at 10:16 pm

Like usual it’s been a while since my last post but I have a feeling I will be picking up the pace very soon. After two years of wanting to do a project in India the time has come to do it. I feel like I could write a lot about perseverance and the act of not giving up. I believe to not give up is a concioius choice. It’s easy to give it up and stop believing in whatever it is you once felt strong about. I’m the kind of person that when I get my teeth in I don’t really give up. That’s not to say I hang on with no hope. So a few years ago I was in India shooting for UN Women and I was made aware of migrant sugarcane workers and the challenges they face as they work in difficult environments with very little pay. I don’t want to go too far into it here but the bottom line is I’ve decided to go back to India to spend a month there between Nov and Dec/14.

I have been humbled and honored by the support I received to fund this project through an IndieGoGo campaign that I started. Close to 100 people contributed financially and many helped to spread the word on social media. I have never knowingly received that kind of support before and I feel a real responsibility to do a great job.

One of the things I like the most about being a photographer who travels and does projects like this is that I know there are a ton of images that have yet to be captured. I know they will be dynamic and cool, the experiences will be life changing but from here in front of my computer I can’t even imagine what they are.

Not many people will just give you something for nothing these days. Life is short and busy and complicated and, and, and… but some amazing people did just that for me. They have empowered me to do a project that is close to my heart.

I will be sharing a lot of the work from this project on social media via this blog, my Facebook site and Instagram. Follow along, lets see what happens.

I have been really lucky to have been sponsored for this trip by some photography companies. Without their amazing help I would be struggling to get the images I know I will be getting. So big thank you to:

Fotocare photo rental

Tamrac camera bags

Lexar Memory Cards

Zacuto for shooting motion on my DSRL


Layover in Kolkata

In Documentary work, India, Kolkata, Sex Workers, Tamracphoto, UN Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women on January 8, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Bangalore and the sex workers or Devadasi are now behind me as I board another early morning flight. My destination is Ranchi but for whatever reason I will be stopping in Kolkata for a full 9-10 hours. At first this sounds great to me but I’m also aware that I’ve been running pretty lean for the last week and getting a bit tired. It’s become more and more difficult to find a place and enough time to catch up on my now seriously depleted sleep. I’m determined to check out Kolkata though and hope to get to the Ganga (Ganges) river. I’ve never been the type of person that likes to read too much about a place or to make too many plans before I arrive. I like to go where my nose takes me. I want to be off the beaten path so with that in mind I sometimes find myself unprepared for what is in front of me. Don’t get me wrong as I like this challenge but it often ends up to be a very big challenge. Note to potential traveling companions, you had better be okay with this or there could be some uncomfortable moments. Anyway I arrive early in the am and proceed to leave the airport and find a day taxi through a service in the arrivals terminal to give me a tour of the city. I meet a nice young man who in his best stuttering English between puffs of his every present smokes claims he understands what I want and will give me a great tour of this city. I tell him what I want is to see the underbelly of the city. I’m not interested in houses of worship or anything where there may be a tourist. No problem he tells me and starts to point out all the tourist spots he can find. Once again I tell him that’s not what I want. Finally after some time he gets it and says he is going to take me to Sonagachi this is essentially the red light district of Kulkuta.

Before all that sex worker stuff, we were going to need to get some food. He takes me to this little place in the center of the city where I’m sure he takes all his fares. He knows the guys by name in the place and quickly orders what surely is his regular meal. I order some vegetarian dish and when it comes I devour it like all the food I’ve had so far and barely take the time to savor the spices that I love so much since my interest is to see what’s  going on outside. After I pay for both of us (is that the way it’s supposed to go?) I get up and wander out the door and behind some stalls to what appears to be a little town hidden behind a bigger city. Little sidewalks zig zagging back and forth like a decrepit Venice Italy. This is where poverty pervades, too poor to beg. Still smiles abound with the children. There were people playing some hand cross version of pool and checkers with an odd number of pieces and other people just making do with the day. There was a small family sitting around a chopping block with the remains of some animal. There was a jaw and a hoof and more fly’s then you would ever want to be around.

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Once back on the road and on to Sonagachi I was given some strict orders from my driver not to talk to anyone and by NO means am I to have my camera with me. I say listen here bub, this is what I do for a livin and I’ll be fine. He is really adamant that it’s terribly dangerous for me to be walking around with a camera and as much as I’d like to be a tough guy he simply will not allow it. Normally since I pay for insurance I’m not too worried about losing my gear but in this case since I had a few more shoots to do I simply could not afford to lose any of it. I decided to take the gear with me vs. leaving it in the car as he suggested.

We begin to walk in the Sonagachi area and at first it seems ordinary enough but very soon it becomes clear that there are a disproportionate number of young girls here. They tend to hang out in little groups of 4-5 and they are very nice to me. Gosh I think isn’t that nice. Who doesn’t want a little attention? Of course it’s not like that at all. These are all prostitutes and they are so young! Seems like many of them are late teens or early twenties. No doubt there are some older ones but the older ones don’t seem to be as out there as the young ones. Granted this was still early morning so I suppose they could have been sleeping from the night before. There was more than one occasion when my driver took me by the hand to guide me.  It’s very common for two men to walk hand in hand but it tends to make me a bit uncomfortable plus I feel i’m a big boy and don’t need my hand held but I certainly appreciate the concern he had for me.

Incredible poverty is what you see in this area but at the same time I don’t see sad faces. I’m not saying these people were happy with their lives only that where I was at that point in time the people I came across showed no obvious sign of stress. I have no doubt that looking a bit closer would reveal myriad of troubles. Like most places people leave their problems at home and then go to work even if their work is prostitution. There were kids playing in the street and both young and old men and women washing in the little corner water pipes.  I do wish I had the camera but I think that without a pre arranged meeting with some people my shots would probably not have been too interesting. Anyway how many shots of sex workers do you really want to see on one trip.

Next it was off to the Ganga. I just assumed this was a place that anyone who you would ask in this country never mind the city would know about it. Funny thing was that it was not as easy to find. We actually had to ask about 5-7 different people on the street to get directions to this magical place. We navigated our way through the crowds of cars and people until we crossed some train tracks and arrived at the edge of this river. These places always seem more romantic in your mind then when you are actually faced with them. It was somewhat hidden behind a row of buildings that lined the edge. As I walked through a break in the buildings my driver decided to hang out with some guys. I do find it amazing that in a city of millions a person can sit down beside what I only can imagine are total strangers and start talking as if family. Meanwhile I walked down some stairs that led right to the waters edge. There were young people washing and children playing. There was a man missing a leg from what I imagine to be polio. He with his crutch and a what I suppose was his girlfriend. They laughed and splashed each other with water. Children running naked as they always seem to do smiling and posing for the camera. I have often photographed two children together with the youngest one happy and giddy to be in the photo while the older one even though also happy to pose there was a small indication that the innocence was beginning to fade,  almost ready to say no photos but not quite independent enough to do so.

As I started to leave I went past one of the areas where they cremate bodies. There are many little concrete divots to build a fire in and then place the body on. There are what amounts to bleachers for people to sit and watch as the body burns. I saw a flame but it had been burning for some time and there was no obvious sign that a life had ever been.

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Once we left the river it was basically a bee line back to the airport. Rush hour if that’s even possible since it seems to always be rush hour would begin soon and my flight was at 7pm. We made it back much faster than it seemed it took to get from the airport to the city and I will say it’s not that close. My driver asked that I tell the service who I reserved him with to say he did a great job and that I would be back later in the week. I guess this helps him, I’m a little embarrassed to say I did not actually do this as I was not heading in the direction of the arrivals terminal where I had originally reserved the car in the first place. Oh well I’m sure he will do fine.

Now onward to Ranchi and meeting the group that works with the Adivasi or indigenous peoples of India.

Sex Workers (Devadasi) in the Karnataka region, ATM coming soon.

In Documentary work, India, Karnataka Health Promotion Trust, Portraits, Sex Workers, Tamracphoto, Travel, UN Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women on December 9, 2012 at 11:17 am

With the tripod finally fixed I could focus on my next assignment. I would be travelling from Bangalore in the Karnataka region of India. This part of the trip would require an overnight train. I have to say I was a little excited about this train although at the same time perhaps a bit nervous. I had heard of many train “incidents” in India and of course I did not want to be part of one.

Before I was going anywhere I would meet the team of the KHTP. This is an amazing NGO that has done so much for AIDS prevention and awareness. Having been funded by the UN as well as The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation they are one of the most successful NGO’s around, in fact what they have learnt about AIDS prevention and education has been picked up by other countries and organizations. Ironically they have done such a good job that they have essentially put a large part of themselves out of business. Since they have been so successful in what they do, the new AIDS cases have fallen and education is up. Still there is a lot of work to do.

The KHPT offices in Bangalore, India

The KHPT offices in Bangalore, India

Sex workers will be my focus for the coming days. These sex workers are subjected to violence and harassment from different people and not always the obvious ones. It is most often from family members as well as police vs. their clients.

After our meeting and briefing about the project it was back to the guesthouse to freshen up.  Once I was fresh (whatever that means) we went back to the office and headed out to the train station for the overnight train to the town of Hubli. From Hubli we would meet our driver to take us to the Bagalkote district. Once in this area we would travel to small villages such as Mudhol/Jamkhandi and Taluk. The drive from Hubli in darkness was a bit scary since our driver was moving along at a pretty good clip. Seems like they just don’t like to be held to the designated lane so even with no obvious reason (to me) he would drive in the on coming lane.  Up until this drive I had not actually seen any accidents but on this road we did see a pretty bad accident involving a tractor and a truck. I was assured people had been killed!

Hubli Station after the 12 hour overnight train.

Hubli Station after the 12 hour overnight train.

Eventually we made it to the Mudhol were we would be staying in a hotel and I use “hotel” loosely. It was like so many of these little towns; very congested with cars, trucks, Tuk Tuk’s bikes and motorcycles. Of course this had its fair share of cows as well.

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Later that day we went to the CAPWS (Chaitanya AIDS Prevention Women’s Sangha) this is where the sex workers support each other and offer information for AIDS prevention as well as support for violence that may be perpetrated against them. I met some amazing women here who must provide all the money for their families through sex work. Often nobody else will work. The family will take the money made by the sex worker and use it to drink or whatever else they like. The family feels it’s the job of that person to support the family through sex work. The sex workers are called Devadasi.

Often these sex workers are alcoholics and very sad. Through their loneliness  they will eventually find themselves involved with one of their customers. This person is called the IP intimate partner and often this IP has a wife and family as well. Even though this IP is married they will maintain a relationship with the sex worker for years. Ironically becoming jealous if they are working in the very job that had allowed the two of them to meet. This often leads to abuse both physical and mental. Since most of the women are illiterate KHPT has created an ingenious way for the workers to communicate in writing and pictures what kind of abuse and from whom they have received it from. These pink cards have been incredibly helpful.

The Pink Card

The Pink Card

It’s a complicated relationship between the worker and the IP. Since the women are so desperate for some kind of love and attention they often put up with abuse. These woman are abused by all sides, from family, the police their IP’s. It’s important to remember that even though sex work is not illegal it is looked down upon.

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Still in these hard times the woman have set up support communities and even a bank to loan money and encourage savings. They raise families pay their taxes and generally contribute to society. In fact one of the homes that I saw would have been a great place to live even by NY standards.

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Just for a little clarity they can have as many as 5 partners per day. Tough life and yet they still manage to sing and smile. I found these women to be very nice and sweet despite what they face on a daily basis. I even had some offers for FREE!!!

Some other things I saw on this part of the journey was the migrant workers who spend months on end camped out in the shadow of a huge sugar cane factory or cement factory. I was a bit nervous about going into their tent city and asking to take photos but of course like so many places when they saw the camera they lit up. Here are a few images from that time.

Our driver going to town on some sugar cane.

Our driver going to town on some sugar cane.

Boiling the sugar cane.

Boiling the sugar cane.

Migrant worker

Migrant worker

Migrant worker family

Migrant worker family

Delhi? I can’t find a Deli in this place.

In Deeta Von Teese, Delhi, Documentary work, Giving Back, India, UN Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women on November 27, 2012 at 10:42 am

I would love to say the jet lag is wearing off but the truth is it’s not. I’m very tired and just starting to figure it out. Lucky my hotel, yes the Vikram was close to the lawyers collective offices or at least that’s what everyone kept telling me. So I wake up to get to the offices at what I think is around 9am (can’t remember, still jet lagged) This is my first daylight ride in Delhi in a car, not counting the night ride to the hotel from the airport when there was next to know traffic. I know I touched on the traffic but it’s not only traffic it’s also the streets and their names or lack of them.

Human game of “frogger”


Morning commute


Maybe they are there but I can’t see them. The next 20 min was a a crazy ride while my cab driver assured me over and over again that he knew where we were going. Yet he kept asking to see the address on the Iphone. He would take it and then say something in Hindi. Drive for a bit then ask for it again. Eventually he stopped at what looked like a place for homeless people to sleep on the street and asked a guy if he knew the directions. The guy pointed across what appeared to be as wide as a highway. Next thing you know we just start to play frogger with the car and my life. Inching across the 8 lane road. With his arm out the window stopping traffic the whole way. I’m in the blood seat is all I can think. We cross the road ask a few more times the way and next thing you know we arrive at our destination. I’m introduced to the women I will be spending the next day with and then we jump in another car for a ride to the outskirts of Delhi. It’s morning so it’s slow going with all the traffic, our car lurches forward and back as the driver accelerates and then brakes, it’s some odd dance through the congested and crazy streets. Eventually we get to our destination. We can’t actually drive the car down the road so we walk a few yards where kids and adults alike stare at me, what you’ve never seen a white guy? Turning the corner of an alley I see a bamboo ladder that leads up to a very small balcony and a room with a door or I should say a half door since it’s been broken by the in-laws downstairs.

Stairs to a home

I am introduced to a woman who has been kicked out of her home because her husband decided to get a new wife and did not want to take care of her anymore. He would beat her to within inches of her life. When the law said she is allowed to stay in the marital home he claimed the home was his brothers so she would not be able to stay. The Lawyers collective was able to stand up for her and prove him wrong. Now she stays above the family home in a 10×10 room without light. She lives their with her disabled son and younger daughter. The husband is no where to be seen and his second wife constantly harasses her. Yet this is a victory since she has her own place and cannot be kicked out. The police are often called to stop the fights between her and the husbands family. In fact while we were there the sister in law was up yelling at her and trying to stop me from photographing the room. The woman is a slight looking lady that probably does not weigh more than 85 pounds. She is 35 or so but looks like she is 50 and that’s a well worn 50. Still I’m told that today she is proud and stands tall compared to when she showed up with bruises and scared as a mouse.

This is her home.. All of it!

Our next visit of the day was to a woman who was married off to a man. Apparently it all started off fine until the husbands family decided they wanted more of a dowery but the girls family simply did not have any more to give them. I guess they wanted money for a motorcycle. So since they were not getting what they wanted even though they had originally agreed on an acceptable dowry they decided to not feed her anymore and made her stay outside and not let her in the house at night. If she needed water she had to go back to her parents house! This is totally crazy to western culture but it’s not that odd here. They would verbally abuse and harass her. Lucky for her that her parents were understanding and supportive and allowed her to move back with them. Often the parents give up on the kids saying that they are now with the man and it’s down to the man to deal with it or for them to work it out. Thanks to the Lawyers Collective she is able to have support in court. Often the lawyers these women find if they find them at all are not really working too hard for them and just find ways to delay the process and essentially take money from the women. I must say that these woman although a bit shy have been so nice and welcoming of me and what the UN Trust Fund is doing. This family insisted on feeding us cake and tea. I’m super worried about getting a bit of a tummy ache so I have been declining most offerings but I had a bit here.

Cookies and chai (Chai means tea so if someone offers you a chai tea, smack em in the head!

Our bellies and bladders full we headed back to the Lawyers collective head office to meet one more young woman who would be coming with her two year old son. I’m not sure if this one bothered me the most because she was so pretty and somewhat helpless or what but I wanted to go and find her “husband and kick his ass” After lunch I met this next woman who told me that again she was married to a man that expected more from her family in the form of a dowery but since her family was very poor they could not afford to give any more. So the husband beat her very badly and would lock her outside at night.  They would make her stand under the sun in summer and in winter made to stay outside without warm clothes. When she got pregnant the man did not support her and has not even seen the child. I can tell you this is a cute little guy! The interview was actually difficult because we shot it on the roof and the little boy kept running all over the place and close to the edge so we had to keep stopping the shoot.

So that was my two days in Delhi with the Lawyers Collective, if you have time to check out their website you really should, they do amazing work!

Here is a photo of  Indira Jaising she is the founder of Lawyers collective and an amazing woman. Read it you will be impressed! of course what would a trip across the word be without a shot of a “celebrity” I was at a final event of the day and I see Deeta Von Teese walk by. You just can’t get away from this stuff, as she walks slowly touching items for sale with her publicist running around her making sure all is good for the cameras. absurd!!


Deeta Von Teese

JFK>Dubai>Delhi Seems easy enough!

In Delhi, Documentary work, India, UN Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women on November 23, 2012 at 8:02 am

3pm Friday Nov 18th, I finally got my visa so the trip that was feeling like it might not happen was definitely going to happen. I raced home from the Indian consulate at 52nd and Madison back to Brooklyn to finish packing and charging batteries etc.

I got some sleeping type pills but they were so small I thought how could they ever deliver the punch I was so desperately in need of with 17 or so hours of flying ahead of me.

At the airport I do my usual smile and undo my shirt to try and get an upgrade to business, I say “but I’m working for the UN to help women” but it seems Emirates is not interested and the flight is full, they would help if they could but they just can’t. Okay no worries but a bulkhead would be appreciated.

This is a big flying bus, it’s one of the new airbus 300’s (I think that’s what it’s called. I’m in seat 65 and I feel like I’m walking for about 10 min until I get there. I take my seat and prepared to take off. The little girl next to me does not appear to want me to enjoy this flight though. She is in the seat, out of the seat and back in. Seatbelt on then off, then on then off. You get the picture.

This plane really seems to lumber down the runway and when it appeared we were going about 60 mph it slowly starts to get some air and then just goes up up and away.

I would love to tell you that I can remember watching a move, I’m sure I did but at this point I’m not sure what I saw on this particular flight. I will tell you that in the many hours I was flying I watched two movies. The Woody Allen movie about Rome and some movie about a kid that grows out of the lawn in the backyard, that is it….I think.

Here is why I can’t remember, so remember that little pill? Well it sure packed a punch. I took it about an hour into the first flight from JFK>;Dubai and with about half a glass of wine next thing I know I wake up and we have about an hour and a half till landing. What the Garsh darn! How did that happen? That has never happened to me before, I was sure I was out for about 45 min tops in fact if someone had asked me and I had to bet on it that is what I would say. I felt good, a little groggy but not too bad and very grateful that I missed most of the flight. Of course I did miss all those great movie options.

Dubai was really just a change of flight. By the time I got to the gate they were already boarding so now I’m on the flight from Dubai to Delhi. This is about 2.5 hours if I remember correctly.

With all the time changes by the time I landed in Delhi it was Sunday morning at 4am or maybe it was Saturday morning at 4am. Okay confession here, I have no idea what day it is. I think it might be Thursday today but I am honestly not sure what day it all began on and that has a lot to do with some jetlag as well as a lot of 4am wake-ups but I can get to that later. I should say that I’m writing this in a small little hotel in a little town called Mudhol it’s about 12 hours by train (overnight) from Bangalore but that’s not important right now. I just wanted to let you know that it’s taken me about 5-6 days to finally get on top of the jet lag to start writing so it’s catch-up time.

Back to the airport in Delhi, I made it through customs and it was at this point that I noticed my long awaited Visa was only a single entry even though I had requested a multi. This means that once I leave India I am not able to return on this trip and that kind of suck but oh well.

I go to the carousel and quickly realize that my tripod that Foto Care has so graciously loaned me was broken and this I might add is the first time I have any equipment broken. I think I will take some responsibility for this but only a bit. I had essentially strapped the tripod to the side of my backpack luggage. It was all locked on tight and not going anywhere. When I picked it up the tripod was still there but the head was missing. Turns out it was just in my bag. They had somehow managed to break the bolt that holds the head to the main body of the tripod. I was pissed since I was really on the fence about bringing it and now it was looking as though I might need to drag a lame tripod around India with me for the next three weeks. I tried to complain to the officials at the airport but after wasting about an hour I had enough I was now tired as hell and could not see straight. I also had to contend with finding a hotel since the one that the UN had told me to contact was already booked and there was no way I could find another one with the few hours I had to pack and leave NYC. (Great story coming up about how I managed to fix the tripod. Better, stronger and well just better and stronger!

I found a travel desk and book myself a room at the Hotel Vikram, Do you know it? It’s a lovely place in Delhi on the ring road in Lajpat Nagar. Check it out if you get there sometime.

The cab ride to the hotel was fun. It’s always amazing those first few minutes when you emerge from the sterile environment of the airport to the city that awaits you and Delhi is certainly a city unlike just about any. I was lucky since it was still very early and traffic had not really begun to happen yet. Even without traffic good reader I can assure that driving in Delhi and I would soon find out everyplace I have been in India is very similar. I can only describe it as an almost slow motion version of chaos. There appear to be no rules of the road and yet there also seems to be very few accidents and if they do happen they are all slow speed at best. Lanes are only suggestions speed limits are rarely reached and honking is the norm but unlike the west when you honk here it’s more of a gentle excuse me I’m here and coming through vs. in the west it’s more like “garsh darn you get out of the way. Horns in the west are often accompanied by a single ginger from ones hand in India It’s more defense and in the west it’s more offense. Once you can accept that then you can really get into the flow. Of course the constant horns do become a bit annoying. I find myself wondering why all the honking since we are all going in the same direction but then I remember they are just letting the other guy know they are there.

I check into the hotel for the two and a half days. The half day was since I arrived at around 5:30 am and check in was not until noon so I had to pay a bit extra and I was fine with that since I was dying to lie down for a bit. When I awoke I called a few contacts but they were busy so my next goal was to try and fix the tripod. Aha I just figured it out, this must have been Sunday since most places in the city for photography kinds of things were closed. I was told by the hotel there was a bunch of photo places that could perhaps fix the tripod near. So off I go with camera in hand (Fuji X-100) thanks FotoCare. I thought this would be a good time to test drive this little camera that everyone has been raving about. I walk down the dirt road all the while dodging the constant buzz of 125cc Hero Honda motorbikes, imitation Vespas and a whole host of other cars, truck, rickshaws, bicycles’ and busses. Place after place I go and ask if they could help me but nobody can. They are happy to give me directions to the next market or store down the road. Eventually on the way back I come across a little camera store where a kind man took it upon himself to try and fix the thing. We walked all the way across the street (8 ft) to another guy working on some propane looking tanks and some other things. He seemed like a good possibility to have the tools needed. He did manage to get the setscrew off so I could re-attach the head to the tripod. They told me that it was permanent and that it would not be able to be removed. I thought “great” I don’t need the trouble of it coming off and now I can use it.

My next project for the day was to go to the Chandi Chook market. To get there I would need to take the subway/train system. I’ll let you know how that went on the next update.

In the mean time here are a bunch of photos from the first week.





Working for the UN Trust Fund to End Violence Against Women

In Bangladesh, Documentary work, Giving Back, India, Travel, UN Trust Fund To End Violence Against Women on November 16, 2012 at 6:04 pm

India Visa in hand



This is the first of hopefully a bunch of new posts to my blog, I have been hired to go to India and Bangladesh to shoot four projects for the UN Trust Fund To End Violence Against Woman This is a huge project that is going to have me crisscrossing India and then on to Bangladesh. There will be Planes, Trains and Automobiles and I’m sure some crazy stories, amazing photos, incredible people and knowing me some laughs as well. It’s almost 6pm and my flight is at 11pm tonight. I fly from JFK (NYC) to Dubai United Arab Emirates (12.5 hour flight) then on to Delhi in India (2.5 hours) Then it’s off to work to photograph the Lawyers collective who have helped to bring into law the protection to women. I’ll be working with sex workers, indigenous people as well as migrant workers. All of theses woman deserve to have equal rights and be treated with respect and not fear for their lives. I hope to show how the Trust Fund is helping to make sure that happens.

Oh by the way I’m finally relaxing after finally receiving my Visa for India at about 3:30 pm today. It was touch and go for a bit. Flights were booked and shoots were scheduled and yet there I was without a visa. Exhale….. All is good now