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WORK by SUDHARAK OLWE

 
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As a Mumbai-based photojournalist, Sudharak Olwe has traveled the length and breadth of India to record incredible stories of resilience, courage and change of bahujan (‘marginalised masses’) lives. A large part of his oeuvre draws upon the rich and lived heritage of Dalit lives through a moden medium.

An interior with the statues of Ambedkar and Buddha

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Preparations for festivities

Sudharak's photographs strike a note of empathy for the downtrodden. They provide  a journey into the unseen perspectives of the human condition, valorising the working lives of those who are often denied their respect and dignity, even after their deaths.

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Sanitation workers going to work

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Garbage cleaners at work

 
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Manual scavengers going down the manhole

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At the cremation ground

The photographs also challenge middle-class or high caste sensibilities of those who prefer to turn their backs on the starkness of oppressed people’s struggles for existence, as girls or women, and as Dalits or Muslim minorities. The images do not so much as pander to the exotifying gaze or ‘poverty-porn’, but rather demand social justice and structural change.

 
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VIEWER DISCRETION

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Baby, dead and abandoned

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VIEWER DISCRETION

The next slide contains imagery with upsettings scenes

 

Remembering a suicide

While speaking out against the normalisation of gender and Dalit discrimination or their relegation to the very bottom rung of professions such as manual scavenging, his striking photographs also convey the joy, tenderness and caring moments of their lives. Nuanced lighting and tonality of the black and white photography adds a certain warmth to Dalit bodies imbuing a sense of their rightful subjectivity as equals.

 
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At a wake

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The daily grind