Wednesday 28 September 2016

Poverty, hunger and hope - India through a lens

When 'Irish Independent' photographer ­Arthur Carron travelled to the subcontinent with his camera club, he was unprepared for how emotional the journey would be. Now his images form part of a unique exhibition

Chrissie Russell

Published 14/07/2016 | 02:30

A young girl on a train in the city of Varanasi. Photo: Arthur Carron
A young girl on a train in the city of Varanasi. Photo: Arthur Carron
An engravers workshop in Delhi. Photo: Arthur Carron
A woman selling boxes on the streets in Varanasi. Photo: Arthur Carron
A young boy from the sacred city of Varanasi, on the banks of the Ganges. Photo: Arthur Carron.

After 17 years working as a press photographer, Arthur Carron would be the first to admit he's not easily moved by the scenes he sees through his camera's lens.

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"I've probably got a little bit cynical over the years in this game," says the Irish Independent's award-winning snapper. "The camera is a great barrier between you and what's going on in front of you. It definitely separates you from what you're seeing."

But when he returned home to Dundalk earlier this year, after his second of two trips to India, and went through his images of life on the streets of Delhi, Jaipur, Agra, Varanasi and Kolkata, he felt an emotional need to do more than just file the photos away.

"I was looking at all these photos of children living in the streets," he explains. "They were smiling and happy but at the same time it was clear life was hard. I saw a lot of poverty."

An engravers workshop in Delhi. Photo: Arthur Carron
An engravers workshop in Delhi. Photo: Arthur Carron

Behind the postcard-perfect, tourist mecca of the Taj Mahal, Arthur witnessed long queues for a lone water pump and families living in a vast tent village. Women in their 80s and 90s sold fruit and veg at battered stalls on the roadside. On the banks of the Ganges, he was overpowered by the smell of open sewers and corpses being burned in traditional Hindu ceremonies.

"In the same river people were washing dishes, washing themselves, watering cattle and burning bodies," says Arthur, whose trip was organised by the Dundalk Photographic Society, a group he's been a member of since he was 14. "It was a total culture shock."

Certainly it was a far cry from the cinematic world of films like 'Ghandi' that had initially inspired him to travel to the country.

He decided he wanted to use his experience and the powerful images he'd captured of life in India to help those in his pictures by raising money for the Hope Foundation, an organisation who work with children and teenagers in Kolkata.

The result is a stunning exhibition of photographs, running at Dublin's CHQ Building, IFSC, Custom House Quay from July 14 to 29.

"CHQ provided the space free of charge, so all proceeds will go to the Hope Foundation," explains Arthur, whose usual jobs see him covering Irish crime scenes and protests.

A woman selling boxes on the streets in Varanasi. Photo: Arthur Carron
A woman selling boxes on the streets in Varanasi. Photo: Arthur Carron

"It's exciting for me too as it will be my first solo exhibition.

"I never went out with the intention of taking photos for charity, it was just a holiday, but I'm happy to do something to help."

Irish Independent

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