“The 900 year old locality of Shahpurjat, once a farmers' settlement, is a place which clearly bears the marks of its rich and complex past. Over the many layers of change, there are gentle reminders of the historical moments it has witnessed. Here the Siri fort remains, there the ruins of a medieval tomb facing modernist government buildings, all these "monuments" which stand as the stoic backdrop of this constantly evolving space.
If you were to take a walk around Shahpur Jat today, you would see the disorderly results of an unplanned urban growth, relentless demolitions and rebuilding, unbridled small scale industrialization and a population stemming from several waves of migrations : the latest being the young fashionable crowd, hastening the now inevitable process of gentrification. The born landscape is one of incredibly diverse extremes; at first sight, the glossy facades of high couture boutiques next to atta-wallahs and that of artist studios next to tabellas filled with buffaloes. However, as you move in closer, the stark contrasts begin to fade. Like the monuments, every individual who occupies this space signifies a time in history, a migration, a trade, a value system and a hierarchy of status.
The large format portraits then act as the great equaliser where every subject stands uncompromised, beside each other, irrespective of their position in this society. Every time the photographer releases the shutter, that instance between him and his subject is frozen for posterity but life around them goes on. They look straight at you, like you look at them but by then their story has already changed. The chai-walla has disappeared along with a large sum of money, the trendy intern resigned within a week and the man who plays cards in the park everyday has left for his farm outside Delhi.
This photographic work is therefore an exploration of the social fabric of this urban village as well as of its historical layers, through the genre of environmental portraiture. Put together, these individual situations are converging to create a significant documentation of the time we live in : a period of extremely rapid change, development and demise, reassessment and dislocation."
Akshay Mahajan (2013)
This initiative was supported by Akshay Mahajan and Kaushik Ramaswamy and produced during a summer residency at their studio (Printer's Devil), then located in Shahpurjat.