Back to index of Nerve 19 - Winter 2011

Unseen Sweatshop

By Nicholas Adams

The images below are a documentation of the various sweatshops that are hidden within Dharavi Slum in Mumbai, India. The sweatshops are often hidden up ladders above shops and only by properly exploring and gaining peoples trust was I able to gain access. Spending just under a month in Mumbai I visited Dharavi and various other slums almost everyday alone or with other travellers I had met who understood my reasons for going, never with a guide, fixer or translator, this helped people to trust me as they saw me more as someone with a genuine interest rather than an agenda. This allowed me closer access to the people, of whom many became friends and access to their lives and places of work. The products produced in these sweatshops varied from shoeboxes to handbags for markets both domestic and international.

The atmosphere in the sweatshops was often one of smiles and pride in the work they are doing. The conditions although bad are still better than not working.

I met many different workers, all of which wanted to demonstrate their trade, each one with their own role of which they were very proud. Many of the workers told of other factories they had worked in often knowing brand names of English companies. Often the owners of the factories or managers would insist I drank Chi tea and sat with them. This is an ongoing project visiting areas of poverty and often unseen areas in order to meet the people and reveal the amazing resilience that the human race has to harsh conditions, and how incredibly kind people can be when they have very little. I am influenced in my work and approach to my project by various photographers, mainly photojournalists such as Chris Hondorus, James Natchwey but also the artist known as JR.

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