Thank you for taking the time to look at this project and I hope what you see and read will stimulate you to help me bring attention to this issue.
"I'll Die For You" is a project that will combine still photographs and video. The work explores the epidemic of farmer suicides in rural India where over the past decade more than 200,000 farmers have committed suicide. Many had borrowed money to plant more efficient crops, but could not pay off their debts. Because of the extremely fast transition India has undergone – from a rural to an industrial, urban society with an open market – farmers have been confronted by immense social and economic disparities where the stress ultimately culminated into suicide. This has particularly affected cotton farmers in the state of Maharashtra in western India.
Since I started "I'll Die For You" my concept has been focused on highlighting the peculiar bond between man and land. I found this relationship unique to farmers given their dependence on the land for livelihood and the equal reliance of the land on the farmers for survival. It is a relationship built on trust and nurturing, one that goes far beyond the customary attachment one has with his/her workplace or source of earning an income. For me, this bond is at the heart of the whole story. It's a connection I have chosen to symbolically reflect in close up pictures showing the texture of farmer’s skin juxtaposed against details from the landscape. They are shot in a way that attempts to blur the distinction between man and land to show in this environment the land and its inhabitants are one and the same: when the one dies, so does the other. The work also focuses on showing emotional loss through a series of portraits and interviews focusing on the women left behind, from the widowed wives to mothers who outlived their children.
My photographic interest in a project typically stems from having some personal connection with the subject matter. When I first read farmers were committing suicide in India, I immediately thought of my grandfather who was a farmer his whole life. I wondered what circumstances could possibly drive a typically humble community into seeking such definitive measures? What would my grandfather have done? It was at that point I realized this is a story I had to tell and in December 2009 I traveled to India and started working on this project.
My goal is to ultimately highlight the plight of Indian farmers and present a story that emotionally connects people to the deep struggle this community is dealing with and how desperation has resulted in a huge human toll. The story is about dependence of man on land and economic disparity as a catalyst for what is ultimately a human tragedy.
Funding for this work will go towards flight costs between London and India, hiring of help in the form of fixer/translator in India, travel costs and accommodation during my stay in India, renting equipment such as video camera and film costs for still photography. Additional costs will include film developing and scanning, exhibition costs and developing the film into its final form (DVD).
- (30 days)