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Ecological question

Chandan Gomes | The Promise of Beauty

Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – the landfill on an overcast afternoon

“What is out of sight will never find space in our memories, in our consciousness. How do you expect people to remember us, when the very purpose of our existence is to hide and burry this city’s doing? I doubt these photos will make any difference.”

[S]ituated on NH 24, close to the border of Delhi & Ghaziabad, the Ghazipur landfill is Delhi’s oldest wasteland. Spread across an area of over 30 acres, the landfill now stands at a height of about 35-40 metres. I have been photographing this site during the monsoons.

We all know that landfills are not happy places, that those who work there do so in the most adverse of conditions etc. Through my photos I do not wish to (explicitly) depict these facts that what we already know or conclusions that we can easily arrive at. My essay explores the possibility of seeking the promise of beauty in a devastated landscape; to understand and study the aesthetics of the discarded, the shunned. My reading of the landfill is that of an accidental bricolage, seen as an aftermath of over two decades of blind consumption.

In my photographs I depict the landfill as both frail & monumental, as an aging hero who is fast losing relevance and respect in the eyes of the very people he served. And then there are his children – the waste pickers, the dogs & the herons – their beings touched upon, but from a distance. The distance enables me to depict the intimacy of the faceless relationship they share with this wasteland, how they have now come to accept it as their own. I speak of them and their lives through the landfill that shelters them, feeds them. It is in the exploration of this relationship, that I try and give a voice to their silent chatters & shy whispers.

The monsoons play a very important role in my essay – the state of a landfill is worst during the rains. Water seeps in through the waste, washing away the mud, making the structure unstable resulting in causalities every now & then. The pathways leading to the top of the landfill get chocked with muck and garbage, making it immensely difficult for the MCD trucks and bull dozers to dispose the garbage effectively. Lastly, the risk of contracting a disease is very high as water gets accumulated in huge puddles. One can also see rivulets of chemical waste making their way across the various parts of the landfill. And yet, life goes on. The men from the MCD, the waste pickers, the dogs and the herons, brave these adverse conditions with a sense of ordinariness that is almost unsettling. They embrace the rains, the way we do in our balconies and terraces. They befriend their adversary, knowing that they will probably have to bear the brunt of this relationship.

While making these photographs I realized, we can seek beauty everywhere; look for it in all things. This is perhaps the best (thing) & the worst (thing) that has happened to us, humans.

Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – walking through the landfill is a difficult task during the rains as the pathways are choked with wet mud and garbage
Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – A family of wastepickers coming down the landfill on a rainy day
Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – under any circumstances, be it whatsoever, the work in the landfill never stops
Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – a boy standing at the edge of the landfill on the look out for his family walking up the site
Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – during the monsoons the chemical waste finds it way all across the site sometimes leading to unfortunate accidents
Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – such puddles are a breeding ground for mosquitos and a host of water borne diseases
Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – another puddle in the landfill
Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – a lot of women work in the landfill to sustain their families. As a result they often face health complications.
Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – the herons feed on slaughtered cows. Due to the rains, the rate of decay accelerates leading to unbearable stench at the site.
Ghazipur Landfill Site, Delhi, India – August, 2012 – the landfill at dusk
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  1. Your pictures depict the pathos of landfills. Very courageous of you to have taken pictures of that is shunned and discarded.
    All the best.

  2. This landfill was a very imp part of our college’s SIFE project last year. we had images of it in our presentation.

    You make it look very pretty. I guess it reflects how enough efforts could make even a site like this beautiful, if we tried. In the ugliness lies an opportunity to beautify, doesnt it? 🙂

    Keep up the good work!

  3. These pictures are so vivid and evocative that words are neither helpful nor necessary. This is not just a good work. This is an important work. And this is to the photographer – It may not make a difference, and yet this is precisely what makes the struggle more piquant and more significant. Keep up the great work. Looking forward to more of such work.

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