Work, Climate and Donkeys

For donkeys as well as people, the brick kilns in India are dangerous and unhealthy places to work – but unemployment is worse.

The RAJ brick kiln in Rajakhera near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

At the RAJ kiln near Agra, accommodation for donkeys and their owners lies empty. Unseasonal rains have waterlogged the brick kilns and there’s no work for them here.The RAJ brick kiln in Rajakhera near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Donkey owners houses at the RAJ kiln. They have left while the kiln dries out.
The RAJ kiln is still firing its last load of bricks but will then shut until the area dries out. Flooded brick kilns in Rajakhera near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Back in the home village of Madhupur, 16-year old Archang wakes early to begin looking after the unemployed men of her family.Agra, Archang, Brick kiln, Chotu, Donkey, Donkey Sanctuary, India, Madhupur village, Uttar Pradesh, animals, community, cooking, family, fire, food, stoveMadhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.Madhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

The family have to feed themselves and their donkeys, whether or not they’re earning.With no income coming in the family have to feed themselves and their six donkeys.Madhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.

Families who also own a cart can occasionally earn some money hauling a load.Madhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. Harish gives village children a ride on his brother’s mule cart.

But most of the men and their animals will be out of work until the kilns dry out again. Madhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India. Harish’s donkeys groom each other. 
Harish’s family.  Harish (19) owns five donkeys and works at the VIP brick kiln about ten kilometres from Madhupur village. During the brick-making season from Nov to June he lives at the kiln with the donkeys. He is home at the moment because the rain has stopped production. Madhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.  Heavy and unseasonal rainfall in the Agra area has caused the closure of waterlogged kilns. Most kiln donkey owners have been laid off for ten days or more and returned to their villages with their animals. They will receive no pay during this time. Climate change makes life more precarious.

Home Lives of the Donkey People

Donkey owners – problem or solution?

Indian brick kiln donkeys

Itinerant donkey owners working in Gujarat’s brick kilns spend 24 hours a day with their donkeys. They live, work, play and abide together. The donkeys’ welfare is entirely in the people’s hands. So who are they, and how do they live alongside their animals? I hope these photographs from MA Ambapur kiln near Ahmedabad will help show how these two societies live together.

Modern India is built on the backs of donkeys.

 

Caesarian

Seven people go into a room and eight people come out.

Anaesthetists don’t just work with unconscious patients. This expectant mother is being guided through a magic trick. Sitting beside her, the anaesthetist asks questions, tells her what is happening, and what she can expect to feel and hear. His team help bridge the gap between her emotions, and what is happening to her numbed body.

Caesarean birth. Anaesthetist.

Caesarean birth. Anaesthetist.

Caesarean birth. Anaesthetist.

Caesarean birth. Anaesthetist.  Caesarean birth. Anaesthetist.  Caesarean birth. Anaesthetist.  Caesarean birth. Anaesthetist.

Patient Experience

From my own experiences, I’m aware of the intimacy and vulnerability in handing yourself over completely into the care of someone else.

Everyone remembers having a general anaesthetic. They won’t remember the operation; but they’re likely to tell their friends all about the process of slipping into unconsciousness. The anaesthetist is their guide and protector into and out of this netherworld. For the clinicians the process is routine, yet the anaesthetists and nurses I photographed were always aware of the importance of this moment to the patient. They used charm, humour, calmness, eye contact and a genuine interest in the patient to help them navigate what is at the very least a disorienting experience.

Anaesthetist. General anaesthetic. Patient Experience Anaesthetist. General anaesthetic. Patient Experience Anaesthetist. General anaesthetic. Patient Experience Anaesthetist. General anaesthetic. Patient Experience Anaesthetist. General anaesthetic. Patient Experience Anaesthetist. General anaesthetic. Patient Experience Anaesthetist. General anaesthetic. Patient Experience Anaesthetist. General anaesthetic. Patient ExperienceAnaesthetist. General anaesthetic. Patient Experience

Anaesthetists

Consciousness is a tricky subject, debated by philosophers and scientists for hundreds of years. But anaesthetists turn it on and off and otherwise manipulate it every day. Photographing people losing consciousness is an odd thing. Like a benign and reversible death. One moment they’re there talking as I snap away and the next minute they’re absent, yet still the centre of attention. They are there and not there.
My commission for the Royal College of Anaesthetists took me to hospitals around the country to photograph all aspects of anaesthesia.
I’ll cover other aspects of this extraordinary profession in future posts.

General anaesthetic  General anaesthetic

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Through Positive Eyes – London

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Image by Gordon

Last March this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives, came to London. I teach photography and co-edit the work with the participants, alongside Gideon Mendel and Prof. David Gere’s team from UCLA. This is the ninth city the project has worked in to challenge the stigma of HIV.
Each participant produced a sequence of ten images which will be appearing on the project website: http://throughpositiveeyes.org/
Meanwhile, here’s a sample to be going on with.

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Grazing

Pollution, climate change and donkeys in Uttar Pradesh

In the UK the word ‘grazing’ brings to mind lush green fields. In Madhupur village near Agra we followed donkey owner Daudayal as he took his family’s donkeys to the only grazing available to them.

Donkeys graze on plastic and excrement

Madhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh, India.
Harish’s donkeys and other animals from the village graze on plastic and animal and human excrement. Eating plastic is a common cause of death for donkeys in India. The village has no sanitation so this is the communal toilet area.
 Harish (19) owns five donkeys and works at the VIP brick kiln about ten kilometres from Madhupur village. During the brick-making season from Nov to June he lives at the kiln with the donkeys. He is home at the moment because the rain has stopped production. His mother Sakuntla stays at the village and manages the household. His father Daudayal works at the brick kiln. His older brother Mahender owns a mule and cart, which he uses at the RK kiln. He also takes on other haulage work. Mahender has made a good marriage to Ruby, with a large dowry. He and his wife occupy a rather luxurious room at their house. Harish sleeps in a bed at the bottom of the stairs. His mother and father sleep alongside the mule in the large but very dark stable within the house. The youngest son Luekush (12) is currently ‘playing’ ie not attending school. Susi has conducted an interview with the family. Although it is early in the season one of Harish’s donkeys already has a packsaddle wound. The weather is cold so Harish puts the saddles on the donkeys to keep them warm at night and to deter crows from pecking at the wound. 
 Heavy and unseasonal rainfall in the Agra area has caused the closure of waterlogged kilns. Most kiln donkey owners have been laid off for ten days or more and returned to their villages with their animals. They will receive no pay during this time. The brick makers mostly stay on site but will have no work, and receive no pay for the thousands of bricks they have already moulded and are now ruined by the water.  Madhupur’s donkey owners work in a number of kilns, mostly around ten kilometres away. Usually they will return home to the village on their two days off each mon

Donkeys graze on plastic and excrementThe land doubles as a latrine for the entire village, which lacks basic sanitation.

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Smartphones

Itinerant brick kiln workers use WhatsApp to stay in touch.

Donkey owner-drivers working in the brick kilns of Gujarat and Uttar Pradesh are paid every Friday, but receive a lump sum payment at the end of the brick-making season. This allows them to buy Indian-made smartphones costing about 5,000 Rupees each.

Most donkey owners are itinerant and may be away from their home villages for many months at a time. The phones allow them to stay in touch, both with family members, and friends working in other kilns. They’re also a status symbol for the young. Using WhatsApp is cheap and may be a spur to literacy for a largely unschooled workforce.
Mobile phones, India, ©Crispin Hughes
Mobile phones, India, ©Crispin HughesMadhupur Village near Agra, Uttar Pradesh. Virat (13) who likes to be known as ‘Brad’ with his smartphone. He good-naturedly photographs every move the UK photographer makes.

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Through Positive Eyes Haiti

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Image by Wilder

Last December I returned from helping to run the Haiti chapter of this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives. I teach photography and co-edit the work with the participants, alongside Gideon Mendel. This is the eighth city the project has worked in to challenge the stigma of HIV.

Here’s a preview of some of the work which will be appearing on the project website: http://throughpositiveeyes.org/

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Animal traction

In the UK animal traction and haulage are things of the past – relegated to the heritage industry. In India draft animals play a key role in the modern economy. Aside from their use in agriculture, donkeys and mules are essential to the construction industry. The livelihoods of many thousands of marginalised families are reliant on the welfare and efficient functioning of their teams of donkeys and mules. These photo stories take a look at this industry.

Guargaon, a city outside Delhi, India, is undergoing a boom in construction fuelled by the new Metro link and Delhi’s need for young professionals.

Brick Story

Donkeys work in Indian brick kilns. © Crispin HughesIndia is experiencing a building boom to cope with its rapid urbanisation. Thousands of concrete-frame high rise blocks, with brick infill, can be seen rising up around Delhi and Mumbai. Almost every one of the millions of bricks involved has been transported by donkey or mule at the brick kilns where they are made. So how does it work? Continue reading

Arjun, brick kiln boy

Arjun, brick kiln boy, Gujarat, India. © Crispin Hughes
This is Arjun, he is a 12 year old boy working as a donkey driver in the MA Ambabpur brick kiln near Ahmedabad in Gujarat, India. This story will tell you about how he spends his day.

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Donkey Cam

Donkey cam. Donkeys at work in brick kiln. Gujarat, India. © Crispin Hughes

Donkeys have a blind spot immediately in front of them, but can see right round to their hind legs – though not behind their head.

Simply mounting a wide angle camera on a donkey’s head won’t tell us how a donkey really ‘sees’ the world. But it can tell us something about its working life. Its movements, its height, the rhythm of its work, how it directs its attention and perhaps how it relates to people and other donkeys.

This donkey shot 2,700 photographs over a 45 minute period as it went about its repetitive work at a brick kiln in Gujarat, India. This selection of its work will tell you as much about what I think makes an interesting photograph as it does about donkey consciousness. But that would apply if I had shot them myself.

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Bedrooms

Khesikala village 1 km from Faridabad KSN brick kiln near Delhi, India. 
Brick kiln carter Rohtas (24) with his two year old stallion horse at his stable in the village. It is unusual to see horses working in brick kilns.
 © Crispin HughesThis is a male horse with his owner Rohtas. They work in a brick kiln. They both live in a house with plastered and painted walls and electric light.

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Modern India is built on the backs of donkeys

Gurgaon, a city outside Delhi, India, is undergoing a boom in construction fuelled by the new Metro link and Delhi’s need for young professionals. Almost every brick in the country has been carried by donkeys during its manufacture. In Gurgaon they also work in lieu of cranes.
Modern India is built on the backs of donkeys. Guargaon, a city outside Delhi, India, is undergoing a boom in construction fuelled by the new Metro link and Delhi’s need for young professionals.

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Two Funerals

_MG_4142 _MG_3304 The changing culture of the East End seen through the prism of the traditional cockney funeral. Commissioned by The Economist, I photographed two contrasting funerals – a Ghanaian mother and an old school Kray era gangster. Both conducted by traditional funeral directors T Cribb, who are successfully morphing and cross-pollinating their funerals to suit the immigrant populations of the East End. To find out more read the Economist’s feature ‘Buried Like Kings’Continue reading

Through Positive Eyes in Bangkok

I’ve just returned from helping to run the Thai chapter of this international arts and advocacy project, in which HIV+ve participants photograph their lives. This is the seventh city the project has worked in to challenge the stigma of HIV.

Here’s a preview of some of the work which will be appearing on the project website: http://throughpositiveeyes.org/

Jo
‘Remorseless’ is the word that comes to mind looking through Jo’s 2500 images. His documentary self-portraits are unflinching but full of humour and style.

Through Positive Eyes Bangkok

Jo. Through Positive Eyes, Bangkok Jo. Through Positive Eyes, Bangkok Jo. Through Positive Eyes, Bangkok Jo. Through Positive Eyes, Bangkok Jo. Through Positive Eyes, Bangkok

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Within and Without the State

South Sudan is the world’s youngest country, founded in 2011 in the wake of decades of war. I visited with Oxfam to photograph their programme ‘Within and Without the State’, that supports people in holding their rulers to account without confrontation.
NGOs use a lot of buzzwords to describe relationships between people and their governments. But how do you point a camera at buzzwords?

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Governance

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A complicated story about donkeys and people

Many NGOs develop problematic ‘mission creep’ as they attempt to burrow down and address the causes – rather than just the symptoms – of the problems they were set up to tackle.

A case study from the work supported by the Donkey Sanctuary in Romania lays bare the dilemma; sticking to a clear mission can be equally troubling.

Donkey Sanctuary, Romania. Liviu lived in this hole in the ground

Liviu used to live under some planks in this hole in the ground in a village near Cernavoda, Romania. Continue reading