From my first travel experience, India inspired me in my photography. This time I returned with a deeper perspective on the real life of people in India, a portrayal of Indian culture that is more intimate. A home is the soul of its owner and the most intimate place of a person, it tells a story about the residents living in it. Entering a home brings me closer to the way of life of these people and helps me to understand. Every home and its occupants have their own story of life to tell, in India the colors help to tell the rest.
I portraiture families, men and women, young and old people, all living in a slum areas in New Delhi of India. The residents live a life at the edge of existence. In India, financially unstable families sharing usually a small house with up to six to seven members, it is a common scene of the slums. Most of these households have only one room, which is being shared with the whole family. One third of the slums are devoid of an indoor toilet. The ones that do have a toilet are not connected with proper sewerage systems. Many generations are sharing life and dependant on each other.
My personal interests in the universal and deeply human instincts and however precarious their living conditions, they turn their habitations into a home. I want my work to act as a reminder of the importance of family and shared values, which is a certain kind of wealth that even those who have less can cherish and enjoy.
City of the Dead
The City of the Dead is an ancient cemetery in Cairo, Egypt that became a residential neighborhood. Cairo's alternative for those who are the poorest, live in this area between graveyards. A life between tombs and mausoleum structures, where people live and work amongst the dead. The settlement is far from legal, but the Egyptian government has long since given up on evicting residents. The first cemetery caretakers have passed the jobs on to their children and so many generations living and raising families at the same place without moving. The neighborhood is poorly policed, crime is on the rise, some of the criminals found here a place, next to families who raise children. The sight of many widowed women at the graveyards is one important fact, nearly every family, face a similar fate. Many women are forced to live in extreme poverty after the death of the man. Widows and their children face discrimination and outright injustice. Women who depended heavily on financial security and protection provided by the men in their families, face after the dead a life, they not prepared to especially financially. And not only financial issues they have to face, more challenging is the cultural discrimination and disrespect that widows face in Egypt.
I traveled to Cairo to visit families living in the necropolis, a daily life between the graves, where children play and clotheslines lead from one tombstone to another.
Symbiosis of working and living
China’s cities are growing very fast. New high rises are replacing old small quarters and create space for the growing population. For small old traditional quarters is less space disposable. In Beijing´s old quarter named the Hutong area, people still live a life like many years ago.
Where neighbors know each other and people come together in the narrow alleys, traditions and generations are passing the way of life. Surviving and living in this old quarters is not easy many people agreed to be relocated to high buildings, to have a proper sanitation system, which most of the houses in the Hutong area don´t have. Those who are left, have created a beautiful symbiosis of working and living in one of the small spaces of their disposal.
My work is focusing on houses where families living and working in small old areas which are left in the big cities of China, such as Beijing or Shanghai. Soon most of them will be gone, most of them will live like other Chinese in high rise buildings, isolated from their traditional environment.
This is my personal fascination with the people of China, the way they arrange a Live in such a small space, try to survive without losing important traditions.
Icons on water
In Cambodia most of the living Vietnamese are stateless residents, have no citizenship papers such as identity cards or birth certificates, as a result, they face difficulties in getting access to education, employment, healthcare, and housing. Stateless Vietnamese built floating settlements of dwelling zones on waters which don ́t require citizenship papers.
Life at the floating village named Kompong Khleang village seems like everywhere else - supermarkets, a school, even a space to play soccer, repair shops, barber, a church, and temple. This small floating village in Cambodia seems to have a normal life like usual villages do. Many generations sharing a small houseboat, floating on the river. Vietnamese residents appoint their own village heads and convey community concerns to the Vietnamese community associations. In this small village, disability is very widespread. Deficient medical care is a big issue, pregnant women have no chance of acute pregnancy complications, as a result, high disability rate appears in many families of the village.
A different world which amazed me with the beauty in such a small space. The wooden floor makes creaky sounds, the floors are silky like someone would oil them every day. The home is gently rocking on the water. Every piece has its own place and everything is very organized. Nearly every home has some animals, chicken, rabbits, cats or dogs. There are even bicycles. Hammocks replacing bedrooms. Mementos hanging everywhere. My fascination with the people who live on water and the way of creating a beautiful, almost iconic home from such a small space.
Athar Al-Nabi is the name of a quarter in the south of Cairo, it is a low-income neighborhood, like a slum where people live in not the best conditions, garbage is a part of the daily sight. In spite of everything, people fight for this place, against losing a self-built home and against a relocation from the Government. It is not the first time the Government of Cairo tries to offer the people of Athar Al Nabi to move to newly built places, which are located in outlying districts of Cairo. Some of them agreed but most of them regret and fight for their self-made homes. All of those buildings and houses are once illegally built, people occupied this territory a long time ago and accepted to live at a place where the government doesn´t take care off or feel responsible for. In exchange, none of the residents pay rent or any other usual bills, but the most important fact is, most of them are not even able to pay rents or bills. Left by the government high and dry as a result of corruption and carelessness, these people will be removed one day no matter how hard they protected and fought for their belongings, to make space for another high building or a hotel regardless of its residents, as soon as the government sells the land.
Who are these Families and People who fight for a life on the edge of poverty, how does a life look like in a neighborhood which is left careless by those who are responsible? Own rules and regime had established after many years of this place. How is it, living in the soon disappearing neighborhood of „The Footprint of the Prophet“ or be only worth a footprint of the government?
My work is focusing once again on the people who have less in life and are forgotten by those in power. People who are fighting a fight of a reality in poverty which they already lost, because this kind of people never has a chance against the powerful.
Graveyard of the Stateless
A nation once so strong, social cohesion was disposed and fell apart in many states and countries, all of them struggle to this day to survive. Equal wealth is over, the left is poverty and corruption and people who feel stateless and tragically forgotten. Left behind by those who once sold trust and wealth of a nation, to the pressure of the world leaders and political enemies. There is a small yard in Ukraine, Lviv’s oldest neighborhoods where lost toys found a home, that was tragically forgotten and left behind someday. This little yard is my inspiration for those who live in this neighborhoods, who have a related story of life. The Generation who know the differences between now and then well is nearly disappearing. If you enter a home of this generation you feel like you are stepping back in time, where everything was different and pretty much equal. In these rooms, everything remained like many years ago, and the residents themselves too. Like the toys from the past nation, which never changed, they still look the same.
My Project is about the former Soviet Union which never disappeared for the older generation and remains in homes and minds. About a feeling which still presides if you enter several homes of the older generation, where time seems to stand still.
Beyond the Taj Mahal
Most of the people come to India to visit famous worldwide known places like the Taj Mahal, it is one of the new seven wonders of the world, a building so magnificent that it’s famous in almost every corner of the Earth. Tourists could be forgiven then, for having nothing else on their minds when they visit Agra for the “Taj Mahal”. Others come to spiritual places like Varanasi, some come for vacations to the beautiful beaches in Goa.
My first impression of India was although this country is a very poor country, for all that, it is the richest country in the world of colors and people. The people of India bring the colors to life and shine from the inside in every shade, every face tells a story.
The world around the most impressive buildings and places are my point of interest. Apart from the influence of money and just away from tour groups with expensive cameras and handbags, to the People who live with no water supply next door to prestige hotels with water blue swimming pools. Children who ran with our throwouts which we once rejected from our closets, because we bought new things. People who live and co-existing next to a surrealistic world which will never be theirs.
Narrow alleys of a slum
The definition of a slum, which according to the census is a residential area where dwellings are unfit for human habitation by reasons of dilapidation, overcrowding, lack of ventilation, light or sanitation facility. India is a country where 22% of the population live below poverty line.
I stare at your world from outside, in my eyes its a place full of beauty, kindness and a reality, my world, where I'm from, almost forgot about. In this world, people try to survive every day, without facilities, which are for us a matter of cause, like access to running water, a toilet or sanitation. With no proper sanitation medium and open sewerage, the slum residents are exposed to contaminated water, which is a major reason for many health problems that emerge as a result. Financially unstable families sharing a small house with not one but six to seven members is a common scene of the slums. Most of these households have one room or is being shared with another family. These financially unstable families put everyone at work for survival. The kids as young as five years start working as sewage cleaners or house help to feed their family. Older kids take usually care of their small brother and sisters and missing school.
The people live a life at the edge of existence and socially disadvantaged. Every home and its occupant have its own story of life, in India, the colors tell the rest. But these people keep one thing richer then everything money could ever buy, hospitality and family values.
Few minutes it takes me to gather courage before I walk in, people will not understand the reason I'm interested in their world, crowds will assemble around me. All I want is give those a voice, through my work, who will never be seen or heard because they live on the breadline.
„How I wish to know your life, how I wish to speak a few words to you, how I wish to get to know you, how I wish to join you, all I get is a moment where you let me step into your world and then the moment passes. I leave with a smile and will never forget.“
Walking down the streets in a different country is always overwhelming. You will be always recognized as a foreigner, people will turn to you or sometimes follow you. Trying to find this little moment where I can step into peoples' life, without being recognized, at least for a few seconds, seems impossible. This series shares quite private moments of different people in their daily routines and homes.
Fishers of Vietnam
In early April 2016, the dead and dying fish phenomena first appeared, floating in the surf and washing up on the beach. Initially, it seemed like a windfall, and many people here ate and sold them. The fish kept coming, tons of them, day after day for more than a month. Some of the fish were dead some were dying, local fishers who sell and dries fish for a living, ate the fish and sold it at markets. After a short time, a big appearance of illness and people suffered poisoning in hospitals. Belatedly, the government announced that aquatic life had been poisoned along the coastline of four provinces by toxic waste from a nearby steel Factory named Formosa Ha Tinh Steel, a steel plant built by Taiwanese corporation Formosa Plastics. The company discharged toxic industrial waste illegally into the ocean through drainage pipes. The authorities warned people not to eat fish and ordered a halt to fishing. The fish kill was the most environmental disaster in Vietnam´s history. The disaster disrupted the livelihood of fishermen in four provinces in the central coast of Vietnam. The fishing nets stayed empty and the local people who depend on the sea were ruined.
One year later fishers life seem to get back to normal, but heavy metals, for example, lead, mercury, cadmium, arsenic, will stay in the environment for a very long time, and it’s very toxic because it can go up the food chain and cause a lot of damage, which appears not in noticeable symptoms, but in serious genetical damages. Markets are filled again and fishers continue fishing they use to. Customers cannot differentiate between affected fish and now, consumer confidence in the domestic seafood industry is broken and made it difficult for many fishermen on the affected coasts to make a living.
The invisible toxic damage will last longer than from the government predicted, village people will continue fishing because this is their livelihood, many families depend on the sea and have to accept the environmental damage.