Of Photographs and Poverty

This article in the Eastern Eye by Reena Kumar is a write up of Sanjay’s photography entry to the finals of the Wanderlust Travel Photographer of the Year Awards.

THE powerful image of a pilgrim sipping water from the Ganges sur-rounded by a sea of candles has reached the final round of a prestigious photography competition.

The photograph was taken by Dr Sanjay Gupta, an Asian cardiologist who works in York. He captured the arresting moment at the Kumbh Mela last year, when thousands of Hindus congregated by the banks of the holy river for an event that takes place every 12 years and is among the largest religious gatherings in the world.

The 41-year-old described how he took the shot as the sun was setting at the festival, which attracts devotees from across the world. “They go by the river and pray as the sun is setting. It’s very beautiful, everyone puts candles all around,” he said.

“He (the subject of the photo) was sipping water. I just saw him and he struck me as really impressive, with his orange colours and the back-drop of the lights,” Gupta added. “It’s remarkable, it’s a spectacular event for the sheer number of people there and the extreme poverty – 95 per cent of the people there were from extreme poverty.”

Gupta was one of 10 finalists in the Wanderlust Travel Photographer of the Year awards. The father of two, who works at York Hospital and grew up in Kenya, said he picked up the skill during a night class while he was studying advanced cardiology imaging at Harvard Medical School in the US. Travelling to India snapping “street urchins” and sadhus (holy men) was an eye-opener, Gupta said, adding that he roughed it in the vast country for the first time in his life, having previously been chauffeured around.

He told Eastern Eye: “Before I went, I used to pretend that the poor didn’t exist, but I’m starting to see things in a different light.

“I enjoyed this trip the most, you have to sit and talk to people, it made me much closer to India.” He added: “A lot of them were barefoot, these aren’t rich people by any means, but they are so devoted that they were prepared to walk miles and miles just because they had faith.”

Gupta, whose parents still live in Kenya, said he has also captured striking members of the Masai tribe during his trips back to Africa.

He has previously picked up the esteemed National Geographic Traveller Photographer of the Year award.

In his next project entitled 5 boys, 5 toys, 5 continents, Gupta aims to capture the disparity between the western and developed worlds, showing the differences in material possessions across the world.