Individual [n] : a singular person distinguished from others by a special quality [syn. character, original, unique, oneself] (Oxford dictionary definition)
This series of photos started of as an exploration of ‘identity’. In today’s multicultural environment each of us are impacted and imprinted by various other cultures and individuals. One approach was to see how a person would occupy a space to reflect their characteristics. I decided to select a scenario for which the ‘set’ and the ‘subjects’ were already in place and I could simply document it.
The scenario I selected was the labour housing camp. It is one of the darker and controversial realities of this region. By definition, the place is the living quarters of thousands of lower class laborers who are primarily in the construction field. This is the zone where the companies provide their housing. The camp is in the outskirts of the city and is a matrix of hundreds of identical building blocks packed with thousands of people. The camp contains people from various ethnicities but the majority are from the asian subcontinent. The population density of this place is probably the first thing that will overwhelm an onlooker. There is normally a minimum of eight people staying within a 3x4m room and sometimes the numbers run upto twelve people within a room. In such cases, the housing depends on the different work shifts of the people; when one goes to work, the other can sleep and viceversa. Each double storied block could have upto eighty two rooms with a population of above 650 people.
This is staggering when you compare it to a typical residential building of around 50 rooms spread over 10 floors, housing approximately 300 people. The housing plots are normally owned by a third party and the company will rent out rooms to accomodate their workers. Thus, the company has to pay the landlord for the worker’s rent, electricity and water charges. The rents are normally high, and charged per room. Thus, the company crowds more people into each room as a means to cut costs.
Although there are many ethnic groups among the people, their personal identity is eclipsed by their communal identity: that of a laborer living within a labor camp. Their lives are wholly dependent on the clock as many of them work from dawn to late evening and are transported from the work site to the housing via buses. These buses, together with the housing quarters, the blue uniforms and the yellow helmets have become the ‘identity’ of these ‘people’. Ironically, this region would not have managed to create an ‘identity’ or niche for itself in the global sector if it was not for these people, and yet these very individuals are marginalized completely by the society.
Documentation is the process of recording something by writing about it or by filming or photographing it. It is a means of providing details or descriptions about an individual, an event, an object and so forth. This kind of a process might imply that the content be devoid of any personal involvement, but, for me, this matter is something that cannot be discussed without the ‘human’ element. It was truly overwhelming to see how, at the end of the day, these ‘people’ are actually just people, and yet they are treated as mere ‘elements’ in the growth of this region, marginalised and devoid of any sentiment.
On having to enter one of the rooms to photograph it, most of them had to step outside, for there was simply no space to move and I had to be careful about not bumping into the two sets of bunk beds, their belongings on the ground and the makeshift stove, also on the ground in a corner where they were making lunch. And I was interrupting their very rare leisure time which they were spending watching sports on a small television in the room.
The pictures speak for themselves: the personal, the barriers, the collective. The photos have been displayed as black and white so as not to take away from the content.