Photography on Fire: New Delhi Through the Eyes of Performance Artists

Kalakar Trust, New Delhi, India
January 2006 & November 2007
In collaboration with the New Delhi-based nonprofit, Kalakar Trust (, I taught photography to eight young artists living in one of New Delhi’s largest “slum colonies” known as Kathputli (or Puppet). Kathputli is home to nearly 9,000 traditional Indian artists who dedicate their lives to performing traditional arts − puppetry, music, dance, fire-eating, acrobatics, magic − that originate primarily from India’s Rajasthan region.

The Kalakar Trust works to keeping traditional Indian arts alive by providing educational, health care and income generation opportunities to low-income artists living in Kathputli. Upon arriving at the Kathputli Colony, I worked with the program directors at the Kalakar Trust to purchase film and $11 cameras, arrange for 24 hour processing and develop a photography curriculum. Though the youth had only three days to make photographs, many of their images powerfully reveal both the hope and harsh realities of life in the Kathputli Colony. Their photographs were exhibited at the Cambridge Multicultural Arts Center in Boston from July-September 2007 and in Tucson in May 2008. In November 2007 & 2008, I returned to New Delhi to catch up with them and reconnected with one of the artists, Kailash Bhatt, who continues to pursue photography. Since 2007, Kaliash has purchased his own film and digital cameras and exhibited and studied photography in Paris. Kaliash’s livelihood is as a traditional Rajastani puppeteer and to ensure that this tradition continues he has built a Puppet House within Kathputli Colony where future puppeteers are trained by master puppeteers.

Below is a rough video clip I took at Kathputli Colony (featuring Raj and Rahul Bhatt) and a selection of photographs taken by the youth.