India – Delhi Scrapyard

Should I stay or should I run? Stay! – Posing is a serious business in India

On my first visit to the Delhi scrapyard I felt like jumping right back into the car as soon as I had set eyes on the many dirty workmen populating the streets and looking – what I thought quite hostile. What a misinterpretation!! Anyway, I started halfheartedly with some portraits and showed them to my “models” who immediately began to laugh and giggle but as soon as I pointed my camera at them again their faces would turn to stone again as well. It took a while for us to get familiar with each other but eventually they all joined in enthusiastically and seemed to enjoy the photo session just as much as I did. Half a year later I returned to the scrapyard with more than 60 printed portraits and was so happy to meet almost all of them again – what a delight to watch their surprise and joy when they looked at their probably first ever printed photo of themselves and their friends.

I learnt a lot from the two visits on the scrapyard. It was such a deeply moving experience for me. These people live in primitive living conditions, for us impossible to imagine, mostly in a nearby slum which borders directly on the railway and they work without a minimum of protective clothing in an extremely dirty work environment full of hazards. So my first steps into the scrapyard were rather hesitant. I had no idea, how they would receive me – me being a European tourist, a woman, a photographer. And then I was just overwhelmed by the friendliness, the gentleness and the enthusiasm of these dirty guys, who so eagerly and generously bestowed their smile and their time upon me.

Once more it became apparent that when you stay curious and face the unknown with an open and friendly mind, “when you are aware of the people next to you, give them a smile, look them in the eye, always at eye level”, (by Andreas Altmann), then you will experience the most impressive moments in a foreign country.

Big thanks to who organized and sponsored this lovely reunion and to Andreas Altmann whose books and reports about India are a never-ending source of inspiration, of joy, of wonder and food for thoughts to me.

July 2016 and January 2017