2011 FotoVisura Grant
Over the past 15 years, more than 250,000 farmers have committed suicide in rural India. This has been especially common among cotton farmers in the state of Maharashtra in southwestern India.
Many had borrowed money through government lending schemes or private lenders to plant more efficient crops, but could not pay off their debts. Because of the extremely fast transition India has undergone — from a rural to an industrial, urban economy with an open market — farmers have been confronted by immense social and economic problems.
“I’ll Die For You” is an ongoing project exploring the epidemic of farmer suicides using still photography, video and archival documents. The project takes as its focus the peculiar bond between man and land, a relationship unique to farmers given their reliance on the land for livelihood and the equal reliance of the land on farmers for survival. It's a relationship based on trust and nurturing and goes far beyond the customary attachment one has with his/her source of livelihood. I chose to symbolically reflect this relationship in close up pictures from farmer's skin juxtaposed against details from the landscape photographed in a way that attempts to blurs the line between man and land to show in this environment the land and its inhabitants are one and the same: When one dies, so does the other.
It was imperative for me to attach a face to this story - to humanise the issue to audiences. This is why showing the faces of the men who died was important. Additionally, the work reflects on emotional loss through a series of portraits of widowed women and mothers who outlived their children.
“I’ll Die For You” is my first step into a long-term exploration of universal disparities between rural and city life. How many of us think about the source of the food on our plate? For the men and women who spend everyday of their life growing what we consume, every grain is an essential element of subsistence.
Laura El-Tantawy, 2011 FotoVisura Grant Top Finalist