Exhibition capturing the life of waste workers on display at Mandi House

Forty-two photographs by six French lensemen that provide the onlookers an opportunity to delve into the role of waste workers across the world are currently on display at Mandi House Metro Station here.

These photographs constitute the show titled “The City of Waste,” which is part of the larger “Urban Societies and Waste” project and will entice the passengers on one of the capital’s most crowded Metro stations till June 30.

Conceptualised and organised by Rémi de Bercegol and Christine Ithurbide, the exhibition that aims to understand the role of waste workers in societies across the world, also presents photographs by Melanie Rateau, Adeline Pierrat, Pascal Garret and Benedicte Florin.

From Paris to Cairo and Mexico to Delhi, the photographs on display document the conditions waste workers live and work in — open landfills, waste containers and public spaces from where they collect waste, as well as garbage dumps, warehouse, factories, markets and recycling workshops, where waste is reclassified and transformed into a profitable resource.

They not only show the clothes that protect their bodies — sometimes rags and even plastic bags — but also the gloves and uniforms worn by those whose work is better recognised.

The techniques and tools they use — baskets, hooks, chariots and carts, among others — the materials they extract and transform – plastic, cardboard, metal, glass and fabric — also reveals the diversity of the practices and the ingenuity the recyclers bring to their work.

“Waste represents a serious challenge for contemporary societies as it puts into question the unsustainability of our lifestyles which generate increasing quantities of refuse. Given the contamination associated with it and the disorder it evokes, garbage has long been concealed from view,” said Rémi de Bercegol.

He further highlighted that today waste is the object of reclassification processes that serve to extract the recoverable material before it is permanently scrapped.

“Thanks to its composition — plastics, metals, paper, etc. — waste constitutes a valuable resource,” he added.

Contrary to the common representation of waste workers often shown in deleterious working and living conditions, this exhibition aims to portray the world of “the city of waste” in a different light, wherein waste workers are freed from the stigma attached to waste.

These photographs were first displayed in Paris as part of the “La mise en image du rebut” (The Image of Waste) exhibition that later travelled to numerous cities. “The City of Waste” is an adaptation of this exhibition presented for the first time in India.

The project is a part of Habitat Photosphere, India Habitat Centre’s year-long photography festival on sustainable development, curated by Alka Pande.

Mandi House Metro station is fast emerging as a hotspot for arts in the public spaces; it has housed several exhibitions in the past few months and draws quite a few onlookers at the otherwise busy station.

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