The Dark Side of the Boom

 
The Naked Truth North Searsole coalliery in Ranigaunj, West Bengal These are the coal miners I interacted with most. The group leader had requested me to take this group photo, which became one of the most published pictures from this essay. Photograph/ Arindam Mukherjee

The group leader had requested me to take this group photo, which became one of the most published pictures from this essay. Photograph/ Arindam Mukherjee

With touching empathy and minute power of observation, Arindam Mukherjee unearths the gruelling conditions inside the Indian underground mines.

This story was originally published in January 2012.

The overglorified, city-centric development is not the real situation of the country. 70% of people still face abject socio-economic oppression, and this story is a sample of that parallel reality.—Arindam Mukherjee

a number of miners work as temporary labourers and do not get privileges of social security..—Arindam Mukherjee

Owing to limited use of hydro and nuclear power, coal remains the major source of energy in India supplying 60% of the country’s aggregate need. Men, who mine the resources for this energy, work and live in deplorable conditions, with thin access to the development they help build.
With the onset of globalisation, Coal India Limited (CIL)—the country’s largest coal-producing company—faces tough international competition and disinvests by cutbacks and layoffs that have rendered many jobless. Naturally, illegal mining is on the rise. The general living standard of the mine belts have gone down. The mine-fire in Jharia has caused serious environmental pollution.

Now a number of miners work as temporary labourers and do not get privileges of social security. The over-glorified, city-centric development is not the real situation of the country. 70% of people still face abject socio-economic oppression, and this story is a sample of that parallel reality.

Destination Darkness Jharia, Jharkhand I was in the same lift the miners were using to go inside the mine. The third dimension, the highlights and shadows, the expressions and the graphics attracted me. Here, I was handling a situation with many subjects and my foremost effort was to separate the subjects from each other. Photograph/ Arindam Chaudhari

  I was in the same lift the miners were using to go inside the mine.  Here, I was handling a situation with many subjects and my foremost effort was to separate the subjects from each other. Photograph/ Arindam Chaudhari

While Planning for a Documentary Photography Project
A good documentary photography work should have the following characteristics-

  • Overview: Brief about the location and the people in the story
  • Portraits: Environmental portraits of people who are related to the issue we are referring to Relationship: How the photographed people are connected to the story
  • Activities: Activities related to the issue or the story Detailing: Small details that help build up the narration
Ghost in the Darkness North Searsole Coliery in Ranigunj, West Bengal A supervisor was showing me around the mine, when I came across this miner wearing a defective headlamp. These headlamps are the miners’ only source of light. I wanted to capture the darkness, and so I used the light from my own headlamp alone. Photograph/ Arindam Mukherjee

  These headlamps are the miners’ only source of light. I wanted to capture the darkness, and so I used the light from my own headlamp alone. Photograph/ Arindam Mukherjee

Suggestions for Documentary Photographers

  • Fixed lenses with wider apertures are always good for shooting photo-essays. Avoid ultra wide-angle lenses, so that there are no distortions.
  • For practical reasons, one should carry as less equipment as possible. It is tiring to carry heavy equipment, especially when you are shooting continuously for a whole day, or walking long distances.
  • Shoot as many pictures as you can from different vantage points. Explore all possibilities to bring out different aspects of the issue and give the story the maximum depth.
  • Be patient and observant of the people and things around you. Try to mix with the local people in their own way, and take out your camera only after you have acquainted with them.
  • Never, ever disappoint the locals by hurting their sentiments. Try to understand the regional cultures and beliefs. It is always of great help.
  • Do your homework before going to the field. Never plan your shots. Always be ready for the unexpected

To view more of Arindam’s work, visit www.arindam-mukherjee.com

Tags: Photofeature, documentary photography, February 2009, Arindam Mukherjee, Jharia, Coal mines, Coal mines in West bengal