Malcolm Hutcheson Portraits from the Naila Lahore’s Waste Water Problem
Exposing the negative turns present into past. Unfortunately photography cannot look into the future. It is primarily concerned with highlighting the problems not in describing the solutions. But when it comes to recording a plainly untenable situation it is powerfully persuasive. I work in Pakistan with a traditional handmade wooden camera in which I develop the negatives at the time of exposure, a sort of primitive Polaroid.
It is time consuming, an audience gathers, the subject remains motionless for the exposure, usually over a second and every photograph becomes an interactive event. The negative bares the marks of the camera and of the processing conditions. There is nothing candid about this work yet I hope it is revelatory, of the people and of their lives. Pakistan suffers from an increase in demand for water and a reduced capacity to supply it. Compounding this are two additional problems: a lack of government activity and ignorance amongst the population as to the dangers of pollution. In Lahore people have had other things on their minds. There have been bombings, political uncertainty, rising food prices, and the lack of electricity which causes six hours of power cuts per day across the entire city. The last of these problems is due to bad planning and little investment in the major infrastructure needed with the high rate of population growth. A similar situation exists in the water economy.
The result is a poorly maintained, antiquated sewage system. 90% of Lahore’s sewage, domestic and industrial, pours untreated into the local aquatic environment. It flows mainly into the Ravi River which lies on the edge of the city. However, for several months of the year the waters of the Ravi are diverted for irrigation and then the waste water collects in stagnant pools in the dry river bed, the banks of which are lined with rubbish. It is difficult to think of a better way to leach toxins into the ground water reserves. The pollution of this sweet water is such that the municipal wells have to be sunk deeper each year. Toxins have reached as far as 100 metres down into the groundwater. Though unaware of the long term risks to health, it is never out of choice that people work in such disagreeable conditions. These photographs show the people who have to work with waste water, either maintaining the system or making money from using it.
About the photographer
Malcolm Hutcheson works in Pakistan with a traditional handmade wooden camera from which he develops negatives at the time of exposure. He has shown his work in international exhibitions at various galleries in Lahore. The Photographers’ Gallery, London and the Nordlicht, Kiel. He won an Observer Hodge Award in 1996 and his book The Majesty of Mughal Decoration: The Art and Architecture of Islamic India was published by Thames and Hudson in 2007. He is Assistant Professor of Photographic Arts and the School of Visual Arts, Beaconhouse National University, Lahore.
Benoit Aquin, The Chinese 'Dust Bowl', 2006-2007
Edward Burtynsky, Selected works, 1996-2007
Jesus Abad Colorado, Landscapes and Battles: Two wings wait for the end of the tragedy, 1995-2002
Thomas Joshua Cooper, The World's Edge - The Atlantic Basin Project, 1998-2006
Sebastian Copeland, Antarctica - The Global Warning, 2006
Christian Cravo, Waters of Hope, Rivers of Tears, 1995-2008
Lynn Davis, Ice, 1988-2007
Carl De Keyzer, Moments before the Flood, 2006-2007
Reza Deghati, War and Peace, 1994-2006
Susan Derges, Eden & The Observer and the Observed, 1991-2008
Malcolm Hutcheson, Lahore's Waste Water Problem, 2008
Chris Jordan, In Katrina's Wake: Portraits of Loss from an Unnatural Disaster, 2005
David Maisel, Terminal Mirage & The Lake Project, 2001-2004
Mary Mattingly, Second Nature and Time Has Fallen Asleep, 2004-2008
Robert Polidori, After The Flood, 2005-2006
Roman Signer, Body of Work, 1976-2000
Jules Spinatsch, Snow Management, 2004-2008
Munem Wasif, Water Tragedy: Climate Refugee of Bangladesh, 2007