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?