My engagements as a photographer and social activist have been an important part of my life. However this particular intense journey with people who eke a living as migrant laborers, was initiated through a collaboration with Jan Breman (co-author of the book) in 1997.

I met them at close quarters, over a period of two and a half years, in the countryside of South Gujarat (near the city of Surat), and documented their lives in the village, on the road and in the city, Lives, which I found to be always revolving around ‘work’. As I found myself in the company of some of the most politically and economically marginalized people, the process left me personally transformed at many levels. At one level was a sharing of the experience of their very quiet dignity and uprightedness despite a very sparce material existence. At another, I could not but interrogate and negotiate my own position as a photographer trying to represent another, especially where I was clearly privileged in many ways. All this has left me with several ongoing questions.

The ‘project’ which was meant to follow a script, however quickly found its own metaphor. As I developed numerous relationships over that period, I came to understand and see an assertion of life itself, which played out within the interstices of human politics and human survival.

(Selection of photos on CD as well onĀ

Ravi Agarwal