The First Witnesses
Project info

Recipient of British Journal of Photography Decade of Change Prize among other honors, THE FIRST WITNESSES is a four-year old and on-going project highlighting universal effect of climate change on food security, agriculture and the farming community. In case of India, climate change and other factors has led to over 300,000 farmers committing suicide since 1995.

This project is produced in collaboration with the survivors – predominantly widows, who are both victims and the first witnesses in this on-going tragedy. By using photographic and textual materials this project seeks to restore some individuality and dignity to a people reduced to statistics. Thus it humanizes a tragedy rather than keep it distant and abstract especially in urban India and global arts community that has little interest in this issue.

Common global template for photo portraiture of the marginalized emphasizes collective anonymity rather than individuality. Such photographs often end up reinforcing rather than shaking up stereotypes. On the other hand photographs of the famous or the powerful emphasis individual attributes, sometimes even mentioning in the photo captions the brand of clothes or shoes that a person was wearing.

By following the photographic template for the famous and the powerful, but collaborating with the anonymous and the powerless, this project subverts dominant conventions around both portraits of power and of the powerless. It is the single most written about and widely exhibited photo project from India in years. Recently awarded British Journal of Photography Decade of Change Prize by an eminent jury with members from The New York Times, Greenpeace International, Leonardo Dicaprio Foundation and others, it will be on a global tour soon. It is also shortlisted for a Royal Photography Society, U.K. honour.