New Internationalist

Women at work

March 2010

8 March 2010 marks the centenary year of International Woman’s Day. Women perform 66 per cent of the world’s work, produce 50 per cent of the food, but earn 10 per cent of the income and own 1 per cent of the property.

Women weed the gardens at Sariska Palace in Rajasthan, India.

My photographic journey has been a strange one, as it seems to have had a will of its own! What started as a hobby in 2002 gradually mutated into a passion. I trained under a portraiture guru but soon realized that faces did not interest me at all. Instead, I found myself gravitating towards shapes, form and structure. So I shifted focus to architectural and abstract subjects… and to photographing women.

The series on women started unconsciously. I was initially drawn to the colours and silhouettes of the women I saw working in the fields, in the construction sites and around their homes. Gradually, that became a more defined interest and I systematically went out looking for ‘women at work’. Once I began looking, they were everywhere! From the remote villages in India and Vietnam to the modern streets in Singapore, they were making a significant contribution to their worlds – toiling to build homes for other people, harvesting paddy, performing as street artists… Their contributions are often not acknowledged but they are there.

Most of my photos feature faceless women. To me a woman without a face represents ‘any woman’. And ‘she’ tells the story of a collective as opposed to the story of an individual.

Smita Barooah Sanyal
Majority World

An acrobat performs in the middle of a square in Chinatown, Singapore.

Local women plaster the walls of a hut in Mandawa, Rajasthan.

Two women sit patiently by the Kishkindha River in southern India, waiting for the coracle (a round boat) to ferry them to the other bank for work.

Toiling in the paddy fields in Vietnam.

This column was published in the March 2010 issue of New Internationalist. To read more, buy this issue or subscribe.

Comments on Women at work

Leave your comment