Photography As A Tool For Social Change


About a week ago, P Saikrishnan walked into our office in Mumbai to meet the team. Some of you may remember that we had featured him in ‘Look Who’s Shooting’ in our Snapshots section last month. He came bearing his silver medal which he won for photography at the 7th International Abilympics held in Shizuoka, Japan.

Initially, we were all in awe of the fact that we had an Olympian in our midst. We all wanted to hold his medal in our hands, which he graciously let us do. As P Saikrishnan narrated his experiences to us, we realized that this was an ordinary man who dared to do something extraordinary. More importantly, here was someone who had taken a step closer to doing something infinitely more important – bring about a change in thinking through photography.

During the course of our conversation, he mentioned that he wanted some advice on what he should be doing with his talent in photography from here on. We advised him to continue with his work in showing India that physically challenged people can equal the best of us in almost every sphere of activity.

We described the work done by photojournalist Sudharak Olwe to bring to light the pitiful conditions of conservancy workers in Mumbai. His photoessay, entitled ‘In Search Of Dignity And Justice: The Untold Story of Mumbai’s Conservancy Workers’, saw him win the All Roads Photography Program Award from National Geographic in 2005. We had one of Manfrotto’s recent product catalogues that featured Sudharak Olwe’s work, which we gave P Saikrishnan along with his telephone number.

It is pertinent to mention two things at this point. P Saikrishnan, who was struck by polio when he was a child, works with HCL as a Senior Executive, Management Information Systems. HCL sponsored P Saikrishnan’s Canon EOS 5D and Apple notebook for the event, which is indeed appreciable. One of P Saikrishnan’s winning entries is published in the ‘My Best Shot’ section in Showcase, this issue.

In this issue, we also profile Altaf Qadri, a 31 year old Kashmir based photojournalist who initially began with a career in computer engineering and then took to photography. Coincidentally, his photoessay, titled ‘Kashmir: Paradise in Pain’, has also won the National Geographic All Roads Photography Program Award for 2007. His images are heart-rending. They show the pain and torment of the common people of a beautiful land. This kind of photography, sometimes called ‘conflict photography’, often puts the photographer’s own life at risk. Is this the price that needs to be paid for social change? Would it happen otherwise? As fellow photographers, can we play a part?

It is indeed strange how things have a way coming together. There is a powerful message for you within these pages.

Tags: K Madhavan Pillai, Altaf Qadri, Sudharak Olwe, P Saikrishnan, 7th International Abilympics, February 2008, Olympian