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Before they vanish

Over the last few years, Bengaluru-based photographer Clare Arni has been documenting the disappearing professions in urban India, including Goa. NT BUZZ catches up with the lenswoman who recently spoke about her work at 6 Assagao

CHRISTINE MACHADO | NT BUZZ

A few years ago, Bengaluru-based photographer Clare Arni was working on a project on urban change in Bengaluru and Mumbai for the Goethe Institute. “I decided to look at the city through the professions that were historically associated with it, like the silk industry in Bengaluru and the fishing community of Mumbai, to see whether with the onslaught of globalisation they were still able to ply their trades,”
she says.

Buoyed by the stories she discovered, she decided to expand this idea to other places (Delhi, Chennai, Kolkata and Goa) and worked for three years on the project. “In Goa, I tried to look at things that were made uniquely in Goa. I documented the feni makers who make small batches of feni in their own land with the painstaking mud pot distillers, the shell makers, homemade Goan sausages smoked in small back rooms, and potters who still make pots without electric wheels and kilns,” shares Arni, who works with researcher Oriole Henry, who looks into the history of the city’s professions. “Then we travel to the city where then there is a lot of leg work, walking through the city trying to find people involved in these professions,” says Arni, adding that they work with an interpreter to help them deal with the language barrier.

“What we found in so many of these hereditary professions was that despite it having been passed down from father to son through so many generations, now the children wanted to pursue their own careers,” she says, adding that she also revisited some of the professions that she had previously photographed like the sign board painters in Bengaluru who are no longer able to do their work as digital flex printing has taken its place

Yet many still continue to work, despite a diminishing market. “Some practitioners keep working because of the passion that they have for their work. Like for instance, the handmade jewellers in Chandni Chowk in Delhi continue their trade where it takes six different craftsmen to complete one piece, even though people now prefer machine made works,” she says.

And having exhibited the project in galleries in Bengaluru, Chennai, Kolkata, Mumbai and America, Arni is hopeful of exhibiting her work in Goa sometime soon.  She is also looking at taking the project to Lucknow and Ahmedabad. “Wherever I travel I am always on the lookout for these disappearing professions,” she says. Besides this, she is working on several projects documenting the living cultural traditions of Tamil Nadu.

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