The 2019 Frames Photography Grants covered a broad range of subjects. Stories were made on human migrations, like the semi-nomadic Gadariya pastoralists, the Karens of Andaman Islands and the Changpas of Ladakh, and various craftsman communities like the Kumbhars, Sankharis and Pashmina weavers. Diversifying our focus towards minority religious groups, we covered the Jain pilgrimage to Shatrunjaya Hill, Sanamahi religion of Manipur, and Parsis of Navsari. Declining professions, like handpulled rickshaws, Irani Cafes, and salt pan workers also find a place in our stories in 2019. For the first time we traced the course of a river, the Jhelum, as it flows through Kashmir. For their documentation work, our Grantees travelled to all corners of South Asia, from Imphal in Manipur, to the Andaman Islands, and to remote Sickles village in the Himalayas of western Nepal. For their research work, they cohabited with communities to directly understand the challenges they face to keep their culture alive and relevant in modern times. Listed below, in brief, are the 2019 Frames Grantees, their projects and link to their published work:
Kajol documented the human cost of harvesting salt along the Coromandel Coast in Tamil Nadu. She travelled to Marakkanam, where labourers work for long hours in a highly saline environment, without wearing any protective equipment or receiving any medical compensation. She photographed the process of harvesting salt from sea water, the personal narratives of the workers, their daily labour involved and the difficulties they face due to the low pay and seasonal nature of the job.
Soumya Shankar Ghosal
Soumya highlighted the current status of hand-pulled rickshaws operating in Calcutta and their historical and cultural association with the city. He tracked rickshaw pullers to document the general conditions in which they live and work, and the workshops where rickshaws are repaired. His narrative also provides insight into the relationship migrants have with Calcutta and the economic hardships they have to endure working in an unorganised industry which is on the decline.
Soham photographed the Gadariya community which migrate every winter between Bihar and Bengal in search of grazing lands for their sheep. He followed the Gadariyas in their wanderings and visited their home in their native villages to interact with their families. His narrative explains the symbiotic relationship the semi-nomadic Gadriyas have with agricultural land owners in the Rahr region and how changing socio-economic aspirations pose a threat to the continuation of their pastoral lifestyle.
Siddharth focussed on the Amaibis, priestesses of the Sanamahi religion of Manipur’s indigenous Meitei people. The role of the Amaibi is not determined by gender and comprises both male (Nupa) and female (Nupi) Amaibis. Amaibis are gifted with the ability to communicate between the other world of the Umang Lai (sylvan spirits) during Lai Haraoba. Much venerated for their special powers, they present a case of gender fluidity in a cultural context.
Jai engaged with the Prajapati community living in and around Delhi. The Prajapati are hereditary potters, also known as kumhars, and they provide clay products which are essential in Hindu religious and cultural practices. Jai visited potter colonies to find out about their Alwar roots, the fine art of making pottery, the inter-personal relationships within the families, and the challenges they face in sustaining their age-old profession in an increasingly globalised market
Indranil interacted with the community of conch cutters, known as Sankharis. Sankharis make conch bangles which are worn by Bengali Hindu married women as a symbol of their marital status. For his work, he visited workshops and showrooms in Kolkata’s Baghbazar and in suburban Barrackpore. He also profiled individual Sankhari artists, their living spaces, and why their conch cutting craft is struggling to compete with alternative choices and changing value systems.
Aakriti researched Mumbai’s famous street-corner Irani Cafes, of which less than 25 are operational today. Through her focus on architecture, she recorded the collective memory Parsis and Iranis have for their ancient homeland in Iran and their Zoroastrian faith, while at the same time adapting to European influences, and catering to the changing demographics of Mumbai. She also profiled current owners, migration histories with their families, and how they are innovating to keep their business running.
Lopamudra cohabited with the Changpa people in remote Rupshu Valley in Ladakh. Her photography tracks the daily migrations the Changpas make during the freezing winter months, in search of pasture for their sheep. The Changpas harvest fine sheep wool which is used as raw material in making Pashmina. Their deep connect with nature is reflected in their outdoor lifestyle, which is changing due to increasing urbanisation of Ladakh and climate change.
Parshati is a researcher with special interest in trade and migration routes. She traced the course of the Jhelum River from its origin in Verinag, making its way through Srinagar, and its crossing over to Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir at Chakothi. She also investigates how the Jhelum has played a defining role in shaping Kashmir’s history, syncretic culture, architecture, sacred landscape, and continues to be part of the unfolding geo-political conflict in modern Kashmir Valley.
Pinky Biswas Sanyal
Pinky Sanyal visited Purulia district, in West Bengal, to document the Tusu festival, celebrated by the Kurmis and other tribes of the Chhota Nagpur region. Tusu is a thanksgiving festival for a good harvest, hence linked to agriculture and fertility. Pinky wanted to highlight the role of unmarried girls in the festival, the making and parading of colourful choudals in local melas, and their immersion in rivers on the day of Makar Sankranti.
Priyanka is interested in collective memory, identity, gender, sexuality and social justice. She travelled to Sikles village, in western Nepal, to document the Arghum ceremony performed by the Gurung community after the funeral of a deceased person. The elaborate funeral rites are influenced from Hinduism, Bon religion, Buddhism and shamanism. Other than facilitating the smooth transmigration of the soul, Arghum brings about social cohesion in the Gurung community through collective grieving.
Snehal is a frequent visitor to the Andaman Islands, and is immensely fascinated by the marine ecosystem and ethnic diversity of the archipelago. One of Andaman’s ethnic groups are the Karens, who migrated from Burma (Myanmar) in the 1920s. Snehal visited their first settlement, Webi village, where she observed the deep reverence the Karens have for the environment, their self-sustaining lifestyle and how they have retained their distinct cultural identity in a new country.
Ankita travelled to Shatrunjaya Hill in Palitana, Gujarat, to participate in the Navanu Yatra, undertaken by Jains as part of their quest to achieve "moksha" from the repeated cycle of birth and death. The yatra involves climbing the Shatrunjaya Hill a total of 108 times, over a period of 45 days or more. Ankita performed the journey herself to experience the physical hardship of pilgrims, and their pursuit of the ultimate goal—Moksha.
Danish explored Downtown Srinagar to understand Pashmina weaving, a centuries-old craft representative of Kashmiri culture. He also visited artisans in Kanihama, where Kani shawls are woven from Pashmina yarn, and Soura and Ganderbal, where Sozni embroidery is carried out as a finishing technique on Pashmina shawls. Through his photography, he wants to build a sense of appreciation about the inherent aesthetics in the work of artisans that is declining due to mechanisation of Pashmina products.
Sarah is an Iranian studying in India. In Iran, she was intrigued about the ancient Zoroastrian culture of Persia. To gain a wider perspective, she visited Parsi colonies in Navsari, in Gujarat. Her photographs document how Parsis have assimilated Indian culture, and have also managed to retain the memory of their homeland, and have continued to practice Zoroastrianism. For her work, she visited important institutions of the Parsi community, like agiaries (fire temples), museums, libraries, hospitals and dakhmas (towers of silence).
Isaac Tsetan Gergan
Isaac will focus on communities living in Turtuk, which maintains cultural similarities with Hunza and Gilgit in Pakistan-Occupied-Kashmir. He will examine the cultural traits of the Nubra Valley and its long history of crafts, textiles, architecture, religion, food, agriculture, trade, local economy and family histories.
Ritayan wants to document the lifestyle of the Fakirani Jats living on the Great Rann of Kutchh. The Fakiranis keep camels which includes one eco-tonal breed of camel known as “Kharai camels”. These are the only breed of camels that can swim. These camels have successfully adapted to ecotone zones or transitional areas of vegetation – here, coastal mangroves and grasslands.
Chaitanya’s interest in documenting wildlife took him to the Indian Wild Ass Sanctuary, home to the only feral population of the Asiatic Wild Ass in India. He tracks down these hardy animals in their natural habitat and establishes how the Wild Ass is perfectly suited to survive in the harsh climate and barren environment of the Little Rann of Kutch, an ecosystem it shares with many other elusive desert animals unique to the region.