Cow dung cake maker earning $7 weekly © Supranav Dash
A perfect project statement from Indian-born, New York-dwelling, SVA grad Supranav Dash, about his pensive series 'Marginal Trades':
"Trades and professional practices have always been intertwined with the caste system in India. Each caste and its sub-sets would stereotype an individual and dictate their occupational practice. Since the early 1800s, people were not allowed to deviate from their fixed professions or they would be outlawed by society, which at the time, social morals reflected ignorance and strong attachment to orthodox beliefs."
"The tradition of professions and trades being passed down the line from father to son, continued for generations until recently when globalization and rapid socioeconomic change resulted in the problem of enculturation and automation. At that point, many of the age-old practices faded out, while others are currently on their way to extinction. The modern Indian generation refuses to stick to their ancestral professions and trades; they have become more daring and switch to the more lucrative business possibilities.
The abandonment of the traditional practices also result from insufficient incomes, a desire to escape the caste stereotypes, the constant neglect of the privileged classes of the society these people serve, and a government that is not open to social reforms.
Global trends are constantly changing; therefore, in these frantic times, it's very easy to forget our past, culture and traditions. I am not opposed to modernization, but at the same time, I want to slow things down, force one's self to recognize and remember the beauty of these analog practices.
As a photographer, I want to use my craft to pay respect to these tradesmen and bring them to light.
When photographing the Tradesmen, I note down how much they earn in a week and tally it with the number of family members they support; which brings up a political dialog about exploitation, deprivation, neglect and lack of social reforms. India chooses to overlook the plight of these helpless masses who earn below the minimum wage mark and are rapidly falling below the poverty line.
The images are informed by the works of Eugene Atget (Les Petit Metiers), Irving Penn (Small Trades), August Sanders (People of the Twentieth Century), and by the Indian ethnographic images of Sir John F. Watson and John W. Kaye (The People of India, 1868-75)." - Supranav Dash.