Friday, February 5, 2010


When my Dutch friend, Joris, asked me if I had a photograph of slums with skyscrapers in the background, my immediate response was "No way."

On principle, I never take pictures of poverty. Of enterprise, yes. Of people laughing, definitely. But of poverty itself, no, unless the poverty is so stark as to be almost hopeless.

But Joris is a friend who I hate to refuse. And he needed the photograph for a magazine cover that he was designing, and the idea of shooting a picture on commission excited me. What clinched it was the fact that the theme of the magazine was going to be "Inequities", and inequities is not quite the same as poverty.

Joris sent me a whole list of specifications - landscape format, clutter-free area on the top and bottom to accommodate text, an attractive visual element on the left half - and surprisingly, I discovered the perfect location within two days of looking for something suitable. A location that I must have passed at least a 100 times in the last three years, but which I never noticed till I looked for it.

This is not the photograph he chose, though I like it best of the lot.

And what I like best about the entire series is the irony the contrast represents. The shanties came up to house the people who serve the residents of the skyscrapers. But to those residents, the shanties (and their residents) and all but invisible. Can there be any greater contrast than that?
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Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

It's an incredible, stark contrast, Rayna. And it makes me very sad because it seems like there's nothing to be done about it...

Mystery Writing is Murder

Ann Elle Altman said...

I live in Mexico and I see that scene all the time. The poor living on the doorstep of the rich. I should show pics of the shanty's I see. Cool photo though.


Ann Elle Altman said...

Oh, and I meant to say, Loved the stopped by for a coffee feature you have.


Faith Pray said...

I am so glad you shared this picture. I think it is tempting for those of us in more comfortable situations to ignore inequity. Thank you for the reminder.

Rayna M. Iyer said...

@ Elizabeth - it is a stark contrast, and while not much can be done about the living conditions, the people are pulling themselves out of the situation they find themselves in. By the next generation, most of these people would have moved up in life. I still have hope.

@ Ann - you know exactly what I am talking about, don't you. Neither can live without the other, but the sad part is that one section refuses to acknowledge the symbiotic relationship it has with the other.

@ Faith - thanks. Stick on long enough, and you will keep getting these reminders from me ;-)

TreeX said...

As a picture I like this one very much too, possibly the best of the lot; unfortunately all the interesting elements would have been hidden behind the text on the cover -- a good photo doth not a good cover make, per se... Unfortunately ;)

Rayna M. Iyer said...

This, actually, was the photograph I shot for myself. The rest were shot for you, Joris, but I wanted at least one just for me.
This would have made a good cover story picture.


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