A photographers’ philanthropy 

ByMihir Srivastava

Apr 23, 2020

Four foreign photographers have joined hands to gather resources via online fixed-price sale of photographs to support the poor and vulnerable during the pandemic in India 

Four unacquainted photographers were in New Delhi to attend a Magnum workshop with Martin Parr in January 2020. During the workshop, they befriended each other and now they have joined hands for a philanthropic endeavour to support the vulnerable and the poor during the lockdown to arrest the spread of Covid-19.

The foursome — Guannan Li, Samuel Beech, Sigga Marrow and Verity Fitzgerald — come from different parts of the world and have their own niches when it comes to their craft. Guannan Li, based in Berlin, is a Chinese-German photographer and cultural researcher. When not taking pictures, she likes to make dumplings and Jing Bing with her special chilli oil. Sigga Marrow from Reykjavík, Iceland, is a photographer and teacher and most of her projects document everyday culture. Samuel Beech is an avid street photographer, focusing on travel and capturing life as it is lived; he is also an Events Technical Director and is based in the UK. Last but not least, Verity Fitzgerald, is a professional photographer based in Cape Town, South Africa. She juggles commercial advertising work and personal photographic projects.

The four had an eventful stay in India, the visuals, and the experiences in general left an indelible mark on them. They left Delhi a couple of months before the lockdown was implemented when things were very much normal. None could have imagined that the country they left behind would change so much in such a small amount of time. “Since we left Delhi, the world has changed quite dramatically; our friends, colleagues and loved ones have had their day-to-day existence altered drastically,” Fitzgerald puts it succinctly.  

The strict lockdown regulations in India have made global news. Overnight, it precipitated a humanitarian crisis, with thousands of daily wagers marching on foot towards their native homes hundreds of kilometres away. For them, starvation was the more immediate threat than Coronavirus. “Millions of day labourers and migrant workers are suddenly trapped with no resources or income with many fearing starvation above contracting the virus,” Fitzgerald describes the deplorable situation.

Looking at the plight of the daily wagers, they decided to do their bit and started a fundraising initiative named ‘Prints for India’ (PFI) with the idea to aid those most urgently in need. They asked for support and show of solidarity from photographers in a novel way. “We are calling upon photographers to contribute one image that they have taken in India. This will be sold to raise money in support of aiding the day labourers and migrant workers affected by the Covid-19 lockdown,” explains Fitzgerald. “We understand that sharing work with us is very much a donation and we appreciate it tremendously. We also know the daily wage labourers and migrant families will appreciate the donations many times more.”  

There are certain rules of the game. PFI is a one-off, limited-time-only photo print sales initiative, where each photographer selects one image from their collection to be sold via a web-based platform. The price is set at $100 per print, with “the possibility of a handful being sold at a slightly higher price, which would be discussed on a case by case basis,” informs Fitzgerald. 

The chosen images must have been taken in India and offer a diverse range across all areas of focus -– be it portraiture, still life, documentary photography or abstract and experimental formats. All photos will be produced as a 10×12 inch C-type, exhibition quality photographic print and shipped worldwide from the UK. To ensure the process is smooth for donors, once an image is sold, all printing, costs and logistics will be handled by PFI. 

Further, good print quality is a commitment. PFI is partnering with The Print Space London, professional photo and art printing facility, also into online art sales, which have been a longstanding and trusted partner with the likes of Magnum and the Barbican. And the participating photographers will be supplied with a licensing agreement to protect the use of the image for this sale only.

On the home turf, PFI is partnering with Goonj, an NGO that has a pan-Indian presence and works for the welfare of daily wagers, migrants and other vulnerable groups. They are running a mission — Rahat Covid-19 — targeted to help daily wagers affected by the lockdown. All funds raised will be donated to Goonj in support of their Rahat Covid-19 operation. 

The response has been encouraging and many leading photographers have joined hands in this philanthropic endeavour and contributed their works. Some of them are Raul Irani, photo editor of Open Magazine,  a news photographer of repute for nearly 20 years; Matilde Gattoni, an award-winning French-Italian photographer based in Milan covering social, environmental and human rights issues around the world with the credit of having worked extensively in India; Ravi Mishra, a photojournalist, fixer, producer, multimedia journalist; and Anurag Banerjee, who considers himself an emotional artist for he is easily attached to people, places and things that he photographs.

And there are many more joining in even as this story is written like Kaamna Patel and Shorab Hura. Those who want to participate can get in touch with Instagram @printsforindia or Facebook @printsforindia. It’s never too late to join a good cause. 

Photograph caption.

One of the images selected for online option by FPI is this image by Raul Irani ANOTHER LOVE, ANOTHER TAJ: Saidul Hasan Qadri wants to create a marvel in his wife’s memory, and he has turned to none other than Mughal emperor Shah Jahan for inspiration. After the demise of his wife, Tajammuli Begum, the 78-year-old put his entire life savings of Rs 10 lakh in creating a replica of the Taj Mahal in the town of Dibai in Bulandshahr district of Uttar Pradesh. From his home, the former postmaster of Dibai has a clear view of the monument where he wants to be buried alongside his wife.