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Vol. XXXIII No. 2, May 1-15, 2023

Photo Story: A Calm Agitation

Documentary photographer Palani Kumar recorded scenes from the fishing community’s recent demonstration at Loop Road protesting the clearance of fresh fish and food stalls. Thirupurasundari, who also visited the space, recounted her experience. In her words — “The atmosphere was that of calm resilience and quiet dignity. The art on the buildings in the background stood out quite starkly. One of the women at the gathering made mention of it too. She said, ‘We are on the walls, but our homes and livelihoods are not allowed on the roads.’”

About the photographer

Born into a family that sells fish for a living, M. Palani Kumar is an engineering graduate from Jawaharlalpuram village in Madurai. He bought his first camera in 2013 with the help of a loan and went on to work as a cinematographer for the critically acclaimed Kakoos, a searing documentary on the lives of manual scavengers in Tamil Nadu. The project inspired his first photography exhibition in the city, too. Palani is a PARI fellow as well as a member of the Pep Collective, a forum of socially responsible photographers in the state.

A rising talent in photography, Palani has received multiple accolades for his work. In 2019, he made it to Ananda Vikatan’s Top Ten Humans for his contribution towards creating awareness about manual scavenging. In 2020, he received the Best Story of the Year award from the Public Relations Council of India; the same year also saw him bag both the Chennai Photo Biennale’s Imagining the Nation State grant and the Samyak Drishti Photo South Asia grant.

Palani’s current focus is on documenting the perspective of working-class women.

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