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No Country for Young Women

After breakdancers, German photographer Nicolaus Schmidt’s latest project is women in rural India

Written by Nikita Puri |
January 27, 2015 1:18:43 am

paul-mainHer face covered, a middle-aged construction worker is busy at work in Soyala, Rajasthan. In Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, two young girls walk around the city collecting whatever metal. Meena Devi and Shanti Devi sit holding their children, after a long day of making statues of goddess Kali in Ghazipur, Uttar Pradesh. To add to this mix of motley jobs is Savita’s, a women-only cab service in Delhi. What brings them together is a photo-project by Berlin-based Nicolaus Schmidt. On display at India International Centre, Schmidt believes “the photographs reflect the situation of women in the country, caught between tradition, religion and the modern age.” The project is called “Diversity and Strength — Photographs of Women in India.”

It was when Schmidt was working with the children’s rights organisation Terre des Hommes, Germany, that he came across reports of the hardship faced by women in rural India. This was in the 1980s. “I came to India about 25 years after my time with Terre des Hommes. It was then that I realised that the situation of women in rural India hadn’t changed much even in 25 years,” says the 62-year-old, who has put together his documentation in a book by the same name as the photo exhibition. The pictures were taken between 2011 and 2013. Published by Kerber Verlag in November 2014, the book has text in German, English and Hindi. “I wanted more people to be able to read and understand it, hence the three languages. I didn’t want to put too much of text, but it does have small stories about the women. You can order the book online,” says Schmidt.

In 2011, Schmidt had come out with Breakin’ the City, a photo book on breakdancers in subway cars, city plazas, on sidewalks and elsewhere from The Bronx and Brooklyn. Another project documented the “universe of hairdressers,” aka the Astor Place barber shop in New York. “I’m always working on several projects at once. Two of next are based in Berlin — one of them a very lively, historical crossing which used to be in East Berlin, and another on labourers. I built my own house, so I know how tough their job is. And my next India project is on construction,” he says.

Schmidt’s photographs are on display in the Main Art Gallery, India International Centre, till January 27, 11 am to 7 pm. Entry is free

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First published on: 27-01-2015 at 01:18:43 am

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