I recently came back from an 8 day trip to India. It was my first time there, and a relatively short one at that considering the primary reason for my trip was for a friend's wedding. It meant I had to be a bit creative to cram in as much as possible into the trip. For a country that is roughly 1/3rd the size of the U.S., but with just over 4x the population, I largely just scratched the surface. But every once in a while, I think I got beneath it, to take a look at the real life, and how people are living.
As of 2014, 58% of the population were living on less than $3.10 per day. While different organizations use different methods to calculate the poverty line, you can say that roughly 12-18% of the population lives below the poverty line. For a country as populous as India, that means that roughly 20% of the world's poorest people live in India.
One such concentration of those poor is in the Dharavi slum. Located in Mumbai, it is the largest slum in Asia - the other Asian slums being in neighboring Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka. Walking through the slum, you can see the cramped conditions people live in. While the slum does have some basic services for electricity, water, police, and so on, it's safe to say that the standards of those services, notably sanitation, are not great.
Photography inside Dharavi is a bit of a touchy subject. Some residents dislike being photographed, and tour companies come under pressure to not be seen as exploiting the poor. It's a bit ironic since elsewhere in India, namely in the Andaman Islands, the indigenous Jarawa tribe is showcased as if they're in some sort of human zoo. I just want to document the current state of life, and hope that's what I'm achieving.
One of the things I've found over the years is that if you carry a big dSLR or interchangeable lens camera with big zooms, besides standing out, people will assume you are a professional photographer. Sometimes that can work to your advantage, but in situations like this, it almost never does. Using a smaller camera is disarming in comparison, and will let you get the shots you want without causing as much grief. This is exactly the reason why I'm a huge fan of the Sony RX1 series of cameras. While it might not have a zoom, getting full-frame, 35mm quality in a tiny package is amazing. I used the Sony RX1 RII to shoot throughout Dharavi. Hope you will enjoy my photos from Dharavi and throughout India in the posts ahead.