PetaPixel

Photos of India’s Endangered Professions

marginaltrades-22

New York City-based photographer Supranav Dash is interested in India’s occupations — not the rich and glamorous ones, but the ones held by those who are lower in the society’s Caste System.

For nearly 200 years, certain groups of people were not allowed to deviate far from their family’s prescribed occupations. However, in recent years things have started changing. Many of the common age-old tradesmen jobs are rapidly disappearing, and Dash is using his photography to document them before they vanish completely.

Since 2011, Dash has been working on a project called “Marginal Trades.” His goal is to capture the trades, professions, and businesses in India that might not be around after another few generations (e.g. the saw mill employees shown above).

“I want to slow things down and force one’s self to recognize and remember the beauty of these analog practices,” Dash writes. “As a photographer, I want to use my craft to pay respect to these tradesmen and bring them to light.”

Ear cleaner

Ear cleaner

A holy brahmin with a deformed cow

A holy brahmin with a blemished cow

Street typist

Street typist

Broom maker

Broom maker

Sugar cane seller

Sugar cane seller

Potter

Potter

Rickshaw puller

Rickshaw puller

Street astrologer

Street astrologer

Oil can reseller

Oil can reseller

Knife grinder

Knife grinder

Festival drummer

Festival drummer

Chaiwala (street tea seller)

Chaiwala (street tea seller)

Butcher

Butcher

Barber

Barber

Cook

Cook

Street sweepers

Street sweepers

Kali temple priests

Kali temple priests

Band party boys

Band party boys

Iron fabricators

Iron fabricators

In addition to shooting black-and-white portraits of the subjects, Dash also filmed short moving color portraits:

You can see more images from this series (and more of Dash’s work) over on the photographer’s website.


Image credits: Photographs by Supranav Dash and used with permission


 
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  • Carl Meyer

    Many of those professions are far from disappearing in the coming decades.

  • Jeremy Madore

    This is a good set of images, and I think the lighting and technique is very wonderful here. I feel attached to some of the subjects’ plights and ‘state’ in life, and have a degree of empathy for them.

    That all said… WHY the backdrop? The stands really cut into the photo and create far too much contrast between technology and age.

  • Rabi Abonour

    Seriously. It’s like someone told the photographer than Avedon showed his backgrounds, and so he ran with it. These would be so much better as straight environmental portraits.

    Also, am I the one who gets an uncomfortable nostalgia for the caste system in the wording of this post? I know that’s not Zhang’s intent in the slightest, but it reads a little like that to me.

  • morgannagrom

    Those backdrops look even worse in color.

    If the point is to document people and their professions, they should just be photographed in their usual environments.

  • KH

    This is a great series of images. I really like motion in the shot the potter and the pedal powered knife grinder, but I feel the metal fabricators one is just awkward.

  • shoban

    Interesting collection but many of these jobs are far from disappearing and most of the photos looks staged especially the Fabricators (where is he looing at??)

  • Jen

    Nice photographs, rarely found.

    However writer makes stereotypes the caste system, provides a wrong percelption on the system in india. While there is a correlation between the socially status and underprivileged. By putting the picture of poor Brahmin, he himself disbunks this proposition.

    Stop commenting on unknown things.

  • Tapo

    I am from India and can assure you that these professions are far from disappearing. A pathetic attempt to sell this story to the West.

  • Asif

    WHY A BACKDROP???????

  • Ashvary

    I am too from India.. Many of those professions are surely not disappearing from India in coming future.. (no way a chaiwala for a century)

  • kshitij

    As an Indian, more importantly, as an Indian photographer, actively photographing in the street in India, I have this to say-
    1. Get out of your swanky, new york city home and come and live in india for atleast a year, so that you learn something about this country. and when you do come hear, please dont stay in some cosmopolitan city area (which comprises of only 20% of india approx.) Many of these professions are FAR from disappearing. How the hell can you call a broom seller,an iron fabricator, potter, rickshaw puller, street barber, cook, street sweeper endangered? More importantly, they are still present in those cosmopolitan areas that i mentioned about.

    2. you dont know your own country. Those “band party boys” as you called them are CAN NEVER DISAPPEAR. They are blended into the fabric of each and every marriage that takes place, from the smallest to the biggest, from the poorest to the swankiest. Again do you even know this country? How can you even can you even claim that?

    3. Tea shop is endangered? its found on every corner of every street.

    4. In a country as religious as this, can priests ever be endangered? even a “foreigner” knows that isn’t true!

    Keeping the indian context aside, i make the following points-
    1. If these really are endangered street professions, why are the photographed in a studio environment? wouldnt a more realistic impression be if they were actually photographed in their actual surrounding?

    2. Whats up with showing backgrounds and stands etc.? are you simply imitating Avedon?

    3. Please learn how to work with the contrast slider in photoshop. there is something called as high contrast, and then their is plain muddy, which this is. and before anybody starts dissing me on this, im viewing this on a professional monitor.

    4. Even after being in a studio environment where everything is under control, focus and exposure is off in many shots.

    5. This style of photography is so pictorial and so outdated, its FAAAAAAAAAAAR from contemporary.

    To summarise, Mr.Dash, please visit the country of your origin once in a while to learn actually what it is all about. Im OFFENDED by your body of work. The west continues to view us as a “backward” country (whatever that means) “of snake charmers and peasants” and your view, vision and body of work, even furthers their vision of us as such. if you knew anything of about india and indian photography, you would know of raghubir singh, and he fought his entire photographic career against this western stereotyping of our country. Shame on you.

  • ksporry

    cool shots. what’s the gear used for those?

  • Ganesh

    agree with you Carl

  • Sarah Loffler

    Definitely inspiring…Edward S. Curtis would be proud.