Mool Chand, a resident of Sector 1, RK Puram, spends thankless hours segregating and collecting tonnes of garbage each day, but when French photographer Rémi de Bercegol asked him to pose for his camera, the waste picker sported a smile. He is seen holding his identity card in a photograph, which is part of the exhibition titled “The City of Waste”. Featuring 42 photographs, the show at the Mandi House metro station, curated by Alka Pande, portrays waste workers free from the stigma that is usually attached to the profession. “It is important to sensitize people and make them understand how they can make their environment aesthetically and physically beautiful. These are pictures that touch your heart,” says Pande.
The six photographers — Rémi de Bercegol, Claudia Cirelli, Melanie Rateau, Adeline Pierrat, Pascal Garret and Benedicte Florin — bring photographs from across the world, from Paris to Cairo, Mexico and Delhi. The attempt is to turn waste from open landfills, garbage dumps, warehouses, factories and recycling workshops into a usable resource. If in Rateau’s photographs we see Peru, Florin takes us to Egypt. Garret has a group of waste pickers in Casablanca with their faces covered and Pierret photographs women and children standing in the middle of what appears to be a garbage dump in Ethiopia.
Bercegol, who was a visiting researcher from 2008 to 2012 at the Centre for Social Sciences and Humanities in Delhi, acquaints us with the realities closer home. If at the Bumper Saw Mill in Tikri Kalan we see workers with mechanical waste, in Bhopura, Ghaziabad, women are seen with plastic sheets. In Mandoli, a welder is at work, and the Okhla landfill occupies another frame. “Waste represents a serious challenge for contemporary societies as it puts into question the unsustainability of our lifestyles, which generate increasing quantities of refuse. Given the contamination associated with it and the disorder it evokes, garbage has long been concealed from view. However, today waste is the object of reclassification processes that serve to extract the recoverable material before it is permanently scrapped,” says Bercegol.
The exhibition is on till June 30.