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Indian photographers snap marginalized groups in Chennai

May 13, 2024

A photography exhibition organized by a youth collective is showcasing people from marginalized communities in North Chennai. One young man's photos focus on those living near a dump yard.


Chennai, the capital of the state of Tamil Nadu, has been called the "gateway" to South India. It's an industrial hub and a center of commerce, home to more than 6  million people.

In North Chennai, the Vyasarpadi area is often associated with deprivation and poverty. The people who live there have faced discrimination for generations.

With the help of a mentor, eight young photographers from a youth collective based in Vyasarpadi have put together a photo exhibition called "Our Streets, Our Stories." The show is a testament to the power of art to share untold narratives and break through stereotypes.

Vyasarpadi and North Chennai are home to polluting industries and hazardous waste dumps. They are also particularly vulnerable to the effects of extreme weather.

In December 2023, after record-breaking rains flooded many areas of Chennai, the residents of Vyasarpadi and other communities in the city's north described being underwater, with no power or government assistance, well after the more affluent "high caste" areas of South Chennai had returned to normalcy.

As photographer N. Sakthivel told DW, "North Chennai was drowning at the same time. No one was documenting this. So I decided it was up to me to document this, and I took a risk, grabbed an umbrella … and took that photo from the terrace."

Sakthivel's evocative photograph was one of some 300 other works on display in the exhibition.

Aparna Ganesan India
Aparna Ganesan Aparna Ganesan is an independent journalist and documentary filmmaker from India.@aparna596