The value of labour

Jan 08, 2012, 07:46 IST | Lhendup Bhutia

Photographer and head of well-known environmental NGO Toxics Link, Ravi Agarwal looks at how 'beautiful' commodities are created by 'unseen' labour in deplorable conditions in a project called 'Of Value and Labour'.

At a construction site, the two labourers on the scaffolding are skilled
masons. The ones below are unskilled labourers

Using his contributions to previous projects, including a book looking at migrant labour, and an art project that looks at waste, Agarwal has assembled this project. He explains, "People often talk about how cities are getting choked with migrants. But they are not here for nothing. They are part of an economy that is creating the commodities that people consume."

Migrants who have just gotten off the trains and are looking for work
wait outside a railway station

"They are migrants, who are looking for jobs. Many don't even have houses to live in and do odd jobs like making kites and helping out in construction projects. Commodities may look pretty but this unseen aspect of it is not," he says.

Labourers create kites in this picture taken at Surat. Many migrants who
move to cities first take up kite-making as work

Apart from pictures of labourers, Agarwal also uses images of trash. "Most people consider trash, as 'bad products' with no economic use. But a while ago, they were commodities," he says.

Agarwal bought this trash for his project. By buying them, he feels he
has imparted a 'value' to these commodities

According to him, by buying trash from kabaddiwallas for the purpose of his pictures, he has transformed this trash into commodities, again. Take a look and decide for yourself.

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