In this fourty-third archive story by Kristian Bertel, we meet a slum dweller in the Janakpur area of Varanasi in Uttar Pradesh, India. Read the background story of this archive photo by the photographer.
A heavily populated urban area characterized by substandard housing and squalor and the slum areas are characterized by substandard housing structures. Shanty homes are often built hurriedly with materials unsuitable for housing. Often the construction quality is inadequate to withstand heavy rains, high winds, or other local climate and location. Paper, plastic, earthen floors, mud-and-wattle walls, wood held together by ropes, straw or torn metal pieces as roofs are some of the materials of construction.
A heavily populated urban area characterized by substandard housing and squalor and the slum areas are characterized by substandard housing structures. Shanty homes are often built hurriedly with materials unsuitable for housing. Often the construction quality is inadequate to withstand heavy rains, high winds, or other local climate and location. Paper, plastic, earthen floors, mud-and-wattle walls, wood held together by ropes, straw or torn metal pieces as roofs are some of the materials of construction.

Slum dweller in Janakpur

In some cases, brick and cement is used, but without attention to proper design and structural engineering requirements. Various space, dwelling placement bylaws and local building codes may also be extensively violated. Overcrowding is another characteristic of slums. Many dwellings are single room units, with high occupancy rates. Each dwelling may be cohabited by multiple families. Five and more persons may share a one-room unit; the room is used for cooking, sleeping and living.

Janakpur in Varanasi, India
Overcrowding is also seen near sources of drinking water, cleaning, and sanitation where one toilet may serve dozens of families. In a slum of India, over 10 people sometimes share a 45 m2 room. One of the identifying characteristics of slums is the lack of or inadequate public infrastructure. From safe drinking water to electricity, from basic health care to police services, from affordable public transport to fire and ambulance services, from sanitation sewer to paved roads, new slums usually lack all of these. Established, old slums sometimes garner official support and get some of these infrastructure such as paved roads and unreliable electricity or water supply. Slums often have very narrow alleys that do not allow vehicles including emergency vehicles to pass. The lack of services such as routine garbage collection allows rubbish to accumulate in huge quantities. The lack of infrastructure is caused by the informal nature of settlement and no planning for the poor by government officials. Fires are often a serious problem. In many countries, local and national government often refuse to recognize slums, because the slum are on disputed land, or because of the fear that quick official recognition will encourage more slum formation and seizure of land illegally. Recognizing and notifying slums often triggers a creation of property rights, and requires that the government provide public services and infrastructure to the slum residents. With poverty and informal economy, slums do not generate tax revenues for the government and therefore tend to get minimal or slow attention. In other cases, the narrow and haphazard layout of slum streets, houses and substandard shacks, along with persistent threat of crime and violence against infrastructure workers, makes it difficult to layout reliable, safe, cost effective and efficient infrastructure. In yet others, the demand far exceeds the government bureaucracy's ability to deliver. Due to lack of skills and education as well as competitive job markets, many slum dwellers face high rates of unemployment. The limit of job opportunities causes many of them to employ themselves in the informal economy, inside the slum or in developed urban areas near the slum. This can sometimes be licit informal economy or illicit informal economy without working contract or any social security. Some of them are seeking jobs at the same time and some of those will eventually find jobs in formal economies after gaining some professional skills in informal sectors. Examples of licit informal economy include street vending, household enterprises, product assembly and packaging, making garlands and embroideries, domestic work, shoe polishing or repair, driving tuk-tuk or manual rickshaws, construction workers or manually driven logistics, and handicrafts production. In some slums, people sort and recycle trash of different kinds from household garbage to electronics for a living selling either the odd usable goods or stripping broken goods for parts or raw materials. Typically these licit informal economies require the poor to regularly pay a bribe to local police and government officials

Filling the frame in India
As a photographer and traveler in India the photographer has filled his frame. "- Some of the best shots I have taken of people while traveling have been where I have tightly frames people's faces. This means either getting in nice and close to the person or having and using a good zoom lens. But also fill the frame with colors and goo for natural un-posed shots just as in the photograph above. While sometimes the posed shots can work quite well they can also lack a certain authenticity. Photograph your subject doing something from their normal daily life. At work, in a marketplace, at home, feeding their child, crossing the street and so on", the photographer says.

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 slum dweller in Varanasi. 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.