Near the end of my recent six months in India, I started a new project. I don’t know if it will be a small, short-term piece or a long term, multi-year project. But “instant editing” helped me define the project in real time. Instant editing is my process of sending a set of selected images (20 to 40) to ten friends, to find out which pictures work for them. My peer’s comments on this new work also helped me define my approach to the project itself as much as making the photographs.
India, with the second largest road network on the globe is on a massive nationwide road building campaign, cutting shops and houses in half to make way for road construction. My new photographs show those houses and shops after they are cut, right up to the point where the newly expanded highway and service roads are to be built. While the government has compensated the owners of the cut buildings, those who were on the land illegally were denied such compensation. I am pursuing this work right now because this subject uniquely includes the “before” and “after” in the same frame. You can see both the expressway that is consuming the land and the mutilation of the building displaced by that same highway.
During the months the project was evolving, I sent out the same set of images to the same set of friends at four different points in the project’s evolution. This was the feedback that shaped me the most:
“Quick reaction to the work…the intro you gave, of houses being cut in half is very visceral and immediately conveys a sense of injustice or progress (depending on your perspective). When I looked at the first set of photos, my reaction was not the same. First, I noticed all the color (typical of your other India pics, and always impressive). Then I thought how it could be a war-torn nation, with images of rubble, minus the carnage. Finally, I needed some more context of the roads you mentioned. While several did speak to the roads and cars, I never got the context of house next to road.”