Kristian Bertel | Photography
Archive story
In this archive story we are learning about Humanitarian photography in Mumbai, India.
Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
Humanitarian photography in India tells powerful stories of social issues and uses photographs as a catalyst for change. Humanitarian photographers use their photos to tell stories of life – stories of pain, joy, loss and hope and then translate these stories into a call for empathy and action. In this photograph a blind man is collecting people's charities in the Kurla West district of Mumbai in India.
Humanitarian photography in India tells powerful stories of social issues and uses photographs as a catalyst for change. Humanitarian photographers use their photos to tell stories of life – stories of pain, joy, loss and hope and then translate these stories into a call for empathy and action. In this photograph a blind man is collecting people's charities in the Kurla West district of Mumbai in India.
Kristian Bertel, Photographer By Kristian Bertel, Photographer
– Updated on May 13, 2024

Humanitarian photography in India

Humanitarianism is an active belief in the value of human life also in photography, whereby humans practice benevolent treatment and provide assistance to other humans to reduce suffering and improve the conditions of humanity for moral, altruistic and emotional reasons.

What are the humanitarian principles?

The most important principles of humanitarian action are humanity, neutrality, independence and impartiality, which posits the conviction that all people have equal dignity by virtue of their being human based solely on need, without discrimination among recipients. Humanitarian organizations must refrain from taking part in hostilities or taking actions that advantage one side of the conflict over another, the action serves the interests of political, religious or other agendas.

Struggles of people and vulnerable situations
Humanitarian photography is a photography style that is used to capture and document the struggles and struggles of people, particularly those in disadvantaged and vulnerable situations. It is a form of photojournalism that seeks to raise awareness about the plight of people in need and to inspire action towards solving the underlying problems. Humanitarian photography is used to document the plight of people living in poverty, in war-torn areas and in areas affected by natural disasters. It is a powerful tool for bringing attention to the struggles of people who may otherwise go unnoticed and the photographs often capture the raw, unvarnished truth of difficult situations, conveying a sense of urgency and compassion to the viewer.

Capturing the essence of humanity
The photographers who take on these assignments are often volunteers or independent photojournalists who take it upon themselves to document the realities of for instance poverty around the world. They are motivated by a sense of social responsibility and by a desire to give a voice to the voiceless. They often work in dangerous and difficult circumstances and many of their images are extremely powerful and moving.
Humanitarian photography can have a profound impact on the way people view and understand difficult situations. These images often capture the faces of people in need, bringing the reality of their suffering into the public consciousness. They can also be used to motivate people to take action, whether it be through donations, volunteer work or government intervention.

At the same time, humanitarian photography also carries a certain amount of responsibility. Photographers must be sensitive to the subjects of their images and respect their dignity. They must also be aware of the potential for their work to be misused for political or financial gain.

"Humanitarian photography is a powerful and important way to document the struggles of people in need and to bring attention to the issues they face. It is a powerful tool for raising awareness and inspiring action. The photos taken by these photographers are often heartbreaking, but they can also serve as a source of hope and inspiration, demonstrating the courage and resilience of people in difficult circumstances"

One aspect of this topic involves voluntary emergency aid overlapping with human rights advocacy, actions taken by governments, development assistance and domestic philanthropy. Other critical issues include correlation with religious beliefs, motivation of aid between altruism and social control, market affinity, imperialism and neo-colonialism, gender and class relations and humanitarian agencies.

Humanitarianism is embraced by photographers
Humanitarianism is an informal ideology of practice, it is the doctrine that people's duty is to promote human welfare. It is based on a view that all human beings deserve respect and dignity and should be treated as such. Therefore, humanitarians work towards advancing the well-being of humanity as a whole. It is the antithesis of the 'Us vs. them' mentality that characterizes tribalism and ethnic nationalism. Humanitarians abhor slavery, violation of basic and human rights and discrimination on the basis of features such as skin color, religion, ancestry or place of birth. Humanitarianism drives people to save lives, alleviate suffering and promote human dignity in the middle of man-made or natural disasters.

"Humanitarianism is embraced by movements, photographers and people across the political spectrum. The informal ideology can believe that humanitarianism consists in never sacrificing a human being to a purpose"

Many other aspects in India
A humanitarian crisis or sometimes humanitarian disaster is defined as a singular event or a series of events that are threatening in terms of health, safety or well-being of a community or large group of people. It may be an internal or external conflict and usually occurs throughout a large land area. Local, national and international responses are necessary in such events. Each humanitarian crisis is caused by different factors and as a result, each different humanitarian crisis requires a unique response targeted towards the specific sectors affected. This can result in either short-term or long-term damage. Humanitarian crises can either be natural disasters, man-made disasters or complex emergencies. In such cases, complex emergencies occur as a result of several factors or events that prevent a large group of people from accessing their fundamental needs, such as food, clean water or safe shelter.

Humanitarian crisis may arise from both natural and man-made conflicts and disasters in India. Humanitarian crisis from natural disasters include tsunami, earthquake, hurricane, floods, droughts and wildfires that may result in disruption through damage to property, physical injury and death, psychological distress, displacement of individuals and families and prolonged disruption in normal daily activities such as the Photographer was seeing in Mumbai. On the other hand, crisis from man-made disasters such as wars, social unrest, protests, conflicts and terrorist attacks have a broad range of impacts on the physical, mental and social well-being of the individuals affected.

World Humanitarian Day was commemorated for the first time over 10 years ago. Subsequent years have focused on a particular theme. One of the years the focus was on the actual work and achievements of humanitarian workers in the field, with different themes though the years.

Charity organizations in India
A charitable organization or charity is an organization whose primary objectives are philanthropy and social well-being for instance educational, religious or other activities serving the public interest or common good and these charitable organizations may not use any of their funds to profit individual persons or entities. However, some charitable organizations have come under scrutiny for spending a disproportionate amount of their income to pay the salaries of their leadership.

"Navigating through the vibrant streets of Mumbai, my camera slung around my neck, I stumbled upon a scene that would stay etched in my memory. A blind man standing with his weathered hands clutching his walking stick adorned with a flag of a local charity. Despite his visual impairment, his demeanor exuded a quiet dignity"

See this video about India made by Down To Earth.

Ethical considerations when and before photographing
"- Intrigued, I approached him, drawn by the contrasts of his disability and his altruistic endeavor. Yet, amidst adversity, he found purpose in collecting donations for the less fortunate, a beacon of hope in a world often overshadowed by despair. I captured his portrait, the lens of my camera framing his resilience and compassion. In that fleeting moment, I was reminded of the power of human spirit – a blind man, navigating the complexities of life with grace and a photographer, humbled by the profoundness of his existence", the Photographer says again.

"- As a photographer you shall respect privacy and some may decline your request for a portrait – honor their choice. Avoid exploiting vulnerability. Your lens should empower, not invade. Share your work with sensitivity and consider giving back to the community that welcomed you. People and people with vulnerabilities are more than statistics – they are living narratives. As a photographer, your mission is to freeze moments, evoke empathy and celebrate their resilience. So, step into the scene, frame their faces and let your camera whisper their stories to the world", the Photographer says again.

"- Humanitarian photographers have to work in some of the most challenging conditions imaginable. Whenever I visit India for my photography trips, I come across some of the most beautiful places and inspiring people who need to be documented and highlighted by my photography. When in India, I stay close to the locals to get a better understanding of their life, hardships and struggles. My camera becomes my fourth eye and it helps me document what I see. The most fascinating thing about the experience of humanitarian photographing in India is understanding the situations of the people", the Photographer says again.

"- During my travels, I feel the anguish of those who are living under poverty and bad circumstances. But what will remain forever is the small glimpses of hope within those emotional eyes. Apart from photographing special moments, I also work with the locals to provide them humanitarian aid through the pictures that I take. I make donations and work with organizations to help out the people in need. The experience of humanitarian photographing in India has been very positive for me in many ways. My pictures are not just a way to document significant events, but they are also a way to give back in a positive way. Doing something for the humanity always gives a feeling of satisfaction. Traveling and exploring a new part of the world can be an exciting experience. But in the humanitarian context, it requires a lot of emotional strength to stay focused and help out as much as possible. I'm proud of the fact that I've done something valuable to help my fellow human beings", the Photographer says again.

Read also:  Boy in a village portraiture

Boy in a village portraiture

Read also:  Boy in a village portraiture

More archive stories

India is a land full of stories. On every street, on every corner and in the many places in India, life is rushing by you as a photographer with millions of stories to be told. In the archive story above, you hopefully had a readable insight in the story that was behind the photo of an Indian man in Mumbai. On this website of Kristian Bertel | Photography you can find numerous travel pictures from the photographer. Stories and moments that tell the travel stories of how the photographer captured the specific scene that you see in the picture. The photographer's images have a story behind them, images that all are taken from around India throughout his photo journeys. The archive stories delve into Kristian's personal archive to reveal never-before-seen, including portraits and landscapes beautifully produced snapshots from various travel assignments. The archive is so-far organized into photo stories, this one included, each brought to life by narrative text and full-color photos. Together, these fascinating stories tell a story about the life in India. India, the motherland to many people around the world, a land of unforgetable travel moments. The archive takes viewers on a spectacular visual journey through some of the most stunning photographs to be found in the photographer's archive collection. The photographer culled the images to reflect the many variations on the universal theme of beauty and everyday life in India. By adding these back stories the photographer's work might immensely enhanced the understanding of the photographs.