In 2007 Brijesh Patel was awarded The Royal Photographic Society and The Guardian’s Joan Wakelin Bursary for the best proposal for a potographic essy on an overseas social documentary issue. As Brijesh was born in India, he proposed to document the environmental consequences of economic growth in the region. His idea stemmed from his interest in the middle class - the powerhouse of the country and its increasingly westernised consumption patterns as India develops into a 21st century global nation. The focus for this project was the impact of this consumption on the environment and the role that tradition and cultural practices play in protecting the environment in India.
Since last year, Brijesh has been researching and identifying the environmental and ecological issues that India is facing, focusing not only on the concerns, but also some of the solutions. Brijesh found the middle class hard-working, but also consuming more and more, as prosperity brings it into contact with an increasingly disposable lifestyle. His starting point began in the recycling communities in New Delhi, the country’s capital city in the North, and took him to the backwaters of Calcutta in the extreme East, and Gujarat in the West.
“One of the most important aspects of winning this bursary was that it allowed me to develop my skills in making images with a deeper narrative content, rather than just shooting to get an ‘interesting’ picture,” said Brijesh.
However, the people were not the only obstacle Brijesh had to overcome. One of his biggest challenges was access to the landfills. The Gazipur landfill outside Delhi is a Government controlled dumping ground which is out of bounds to the public; it is also a place where recycling is controlled by local ‘mafias,’ who are very unwelcoming especially to those with cameras. Brijesh was fortunate to liaise with an NGO for support in gaining access. It was this approach that Brijesh used in the other places he visited that otherwise would have been inaccessible.
Dr. Barry Senior Hon.FRPS, President of The RPS said: “We were delighted to award Brijesh with the bursary last year and give him the opportunity to explore and expand on his proposal. The resulting images that he has been able to capture are outstanding.”
Today, Brijesh’s photographic essay is complete, visually chronicling the story that has emerged before his eyes over the last two months. Brijesh now plans to exhibit the project in the context it was made and is planning to show the images in Kolkata and Delhi later this year.
For more information on Brijesh Patel, please visit his website.