Capturing for posterity the real builders of the CWG stadia
Vol 1 | Issue 7
They have already stepped aside. When the rest of India revels in the glory of the success of the Commonwealth Games, they will be off to some other construction site. They are the migrant workers, who sweated it out day and night to help India realize a dream. But when the media was capturing images of unfinished constructions and broken down bridges and damaged structures, there was this young photographer who saw hope and optimism radiating from the faces of the otherwise faceless workforce.
The pictures of the migrant workers that 23-year-old Ajit Bhadoriya shot were exhibited at India Habitat Centre, much to the delight of many, including CWG delegates. The exhibition, titled ‘Pathmakers’, was expected to draw the attention of all even before Bhadoriya could shoot those images. When he had applied for a media fellowship with the National Foundation of India, his unique theme drew attention of the jury that included big names in photography like Raghu Rai, Prashant Panjiar and Pablo Bartholomew. The jury mentioned even then that the delegates would notice these workers, if the photographs get exhibited during the games.
Bhadoriya says his aim was to portray the optimism of migrant labourers, who sweated it out piecing together the stadia brick by brick against all odds at various construction sites in the Capital. But permission to shoot at the sites was difficult to obtain. He had to run from pillar to post, knocking on the doors of various government offices, but his application was turned down. The officials were not too keen on his project. Anyway, the cordial and chatty Bhadoriya, managed to get the nod.
(L) one of Bhadoriya’s classic shots of a worker (R )Bhadoriya
“Photography is something which starts from your heart. If you can visualize something, equipment doesn’t matter,” says the pony-tailed youth, who captured his pictures in 400 gigabytes with a normal Cannon SLR camera and basic kit lens.
“My camera flashed on the delicate moments of their life at the construction sites. For instance, they were caught snapping pictures of fellow workers on their mobile phones, listening to music, offering prayers on deity calendars and patronising a makeshift barber shop with cheap imitations of international shaving-cream brands like Darling and 20 Degree Celsius. Instead of showing their hardship, I focused on their hopes and aspirations,” Bhadoriya says.
To gain their trust and confidence, he moved with them closely, often visiting their dwellings. “I had countless tea sessions and chitchats with them. To understand their feelings I met many youngsters, who talked about movies and other interests. They even shared comments on good looking girls passing by the construction site. It was possible only through the kind of bonding we developed,” says Bhadoriya.