At the age of 11 years, I ran away from my grandparents' house in West Bengal to escape their beating. After fleeing from there, I boarded a train and landed in Delhi, where I saw street children often fighting with blades and surviving on stolen food from the trains. I too joined the lot. I survived for a year by collecting water bottles at the New Delhi Railway Station. I worked both as a rag picker as well as a dishwasher to meet the ends. After a year, an NGO named Salaam Baalak Trust approached me and I went to live at their shelter till I turned 18. There I learned photography from British documentary maker Benjamin Dixie and later Indian portrait photographer Anay Maan became my mentor. Thus, I started working to document street kids.
Between 2005-2012, I returned to the shelter, this time with a different purpose, to document life for street kids. I don't want people to look at street children with pitiful eyes. The pictures that I took when I started out were mostly of kids living the same experience as me. I wanted to photograph children below 18 years only, because it reflected my story.
In 2007, I held my first solo exhibition titled "Street Dream" at India Habitat Centre New Delhi, supported by the British High Commission. In the consecutive year, I was selected by the US-based Maybach Foundation to photo document the reconstruction of the World Trade Center in New York. As part of the program, I undertook a course in documentary photography at the International Center for Photography, New York.
In 2009, I was selected by the US-based Maybach Foundation as one of four international photographers. The series I make aims to reclaim part of the 'faceless' history of the site from oblivion. I remembered thousands of people involved in the construction of the original site and impacted by its devastation after the terrorist attacks of 9/11. I felt that documenting this process was equivalent to taking part in history and the significance of these pictures may only be known in many years to come.
My first monograph, 'Home Street Home', published by the Nazar Foundation (New Delhi, India), was released at the second edition of the Delhi Photo Festival in 2013. My solo show "This Scarred Land: New Mountainscape" was exhibited at Vadehra Art Gallery, New Delhi in 2017. I was also a part of the Houston FotoFest Biennial and Kochi Muziris Biennale in 2018. 'Scraping the Sky' was exhibited at Asia Society Texas Centre in 2019. I was awarded the MIT Media Fellowship in 2014 and listed as Forbes Asia 30 under 30 in 2016.
Through my clicks, I raised the money to pay for medical requirements for the marginalised people. My work has given me the opportunities to help others and I'm quite grateful for it. While clicking the mountains for the series 'This Scarred Land', I was going through a rough phase and surprisingly I saw the pain in the mountains too. All of these photographs of the mountains have a question mark and I want people to think about that.
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