“Untouchable” Dalit Girl

Living in extreme poverty in the outskirts of the city, this beautiful girl picks though dumped waste for a living. With no toilets, clean water, electricity or medical care, she survives in a makeshift tent at the fringes of society on wasteland and "untouchable" by birth. According to my local friend, I am probably the only person from outside her small tribal community who has ever held her hand.

Living in extreme poverty in the outskirts of the city, this beautiful girl picks though dumped waste for a living. With no toilets, clean water, electricity or medical care, she survives in a makeshift tent at the fringes of society on wasteland and “untouchable” by birth.
According to my local friend, I am probably the only person from outside her small tribal community who has ever held her hand.


92 thoughts on ““Untouchable” Dalit Girl

    1. Thank you for commenting Jenny. I had volunteered to take pictures nearby for a free school project and this was kind of outside the scope of the work. I managed to get a translator to come into this site with me and the principle of the school I was shooting for has promised to go there, find this girl and try to get her into the school. Please check back here for more pictures and update :)

  1. Stunningly beautiful, emotional, innocent and a heart felt photograph. Peter this has really touched my heart and reminds me so much of my time in Southern India with the poverty, the hardship such street kids and their makeshift “families” they create to survive.Thank you….

    1. James thanks so much for your thoughts. This particular picture is very special to me.
      When I visited this community, a lot of the kids were very excitable and keen to smile and pose for pictures. I don’t know exactly why, but I managed to make a photographic connection with this girl who had such depth, beauty, feeling and emotion in her eyes.
      There was a sadness about her not apparent in the others and I have come back home really worried about her.
      The NGO I was volunteering for there have promised to return and find out more about her.

  2. That’s an amazing photograph! :) And displaying so large on the screen, almost makes me feel like I’ve looked into those lovely brown eyes for real! It may be an illusion, but it’s quite a strange feeling! :D

  3. Hi Peter, I’ve had your photo up on my screen for the past few hours. My husband and I just had dinner with our son and, during grace, I prayed for this little girl. Then I returned to my computer just now to write you and saw that you were asking for prayer. My husband and I will continue to pray for her.

    As powerful as this portrait is, the moment for me which trascended all of the complexities compacted in this little face was your holding of her hand. Bless you. Touch is such a gift and for her to be seen and touched by you is something she will not forget.

    I look forward to your news of her. — Vivian

    1. Dear Vivian,

      I am extremely grateful for your interest in this picture and especially your prayers. The sheer scale and depth of the hardships faced by millions of children like her, the world over, is hard to comprehend and meeting this little girl, and others like her, has been a turning point in my life. In fact, a highlight of my life.

      The organisation I was invited to India by is working hard to try to change the lives of very poor children, especially girls, who face the greatest problems in a very male dominated culture.

      I will be adding a new page on this blog in the coming weeks for the photos I took for them, highlighting their work. I hope you like it.

      My kindest regards to you :)

    1. David many thanks for your thoughts; I really appreciate your comment. The moment I looked through the viewfinder and locked focus on those eyes I knew instantly that I was about to capture something very special.

      I can’t express enough how blessed I have been to have met this little girl with such depth and beauty in her eyes.

    1. Thanks Orlando. I have been so fortunate to have been given this kind of access to such beautiful people.
      I have asked a friend there to find this girl and make sure she is ok: I’m really worried about her.
      Thanks for your wishes, they are important to me :)

  4. “A picture is worth a thousand words” – that’s one of such pictures.

    I hope that God is looking after her and many other children who share her fate. K.

  5. A “dose of emotional heft”… it’s an emotionally stirring depiction and especially so since I don’t feel fully dressed until I’m wearing a smile… if you know what I meant. In any case, well crafted piece of work!

    1. Ivy I totally appreciate your comment and I do know exactly what you mean. I think that what you have highlighted is one of the reasons this is such a special image for me personally.
      This child and others like her presented no barriers in front of the camera and I am thankful to have been allowed by them to find this emotional connection.
      Thanks for your thoughts about this Ivy :)

  6. Oh Peter, what an incredibly sad but powerfully real photograph! Her eyes totally draw me in. She is wearing the struggle of her life on her face, and no child should ever look like that just because of where they were born. This world can be so cruel… I’d be going through the same emotions as you if I’d met her, I’d have to literally tear myself away.

    Do you wonder if she ever thinks of the man who stopped in front of her one day with a camera, and really looked at her, and took the time to show a little kindness and hold her hand…?

    1. Roo I do wonder that and I’ve been thinking about her each day since I got back. I didn’t spend as much time as I wanted to at this particular colony but I did get a chance to meet several of the people living there. I did’t get a chance though to say goodbye to this little girl as at the time we had to leave there, she had gone. Who knows where?

  7. Thanks for sharing these wonderful photos of these children. I dream that someday poverty will be a thing of the past… It’s possible, we just have to make the right choices but we’re not there yet.

  8. India has got two face one is a devloped one nt only by infrastructure by thinking and mantality also socly in metros and the other is an undevloped thinking brutely clutched with castism religion uper lower etc. Hats off to ur work and it was pleasure meeting u on my flight Air india…..

  9. Such sadness! it breaks my heart to think of these little underprivileged girls. As if poverty isn’t big enough a problem, many are abducted and worse… The sad truth is most of it is not even considered worthy enough to be reported. I dread to think about India’s underprivileged little daughters. May God closely guard them, these fragile butterflies of the society.

  10. At this children’s portraits come your words deficit. How strong are these children that they can hold their own, and yet still so much joy from can rays. There are still quite a few of our Western youth can learn.

  11. Great portrait :) Those eyes are so full of sadness. Although photography can’t change all that is wrong in our society, photographs can sure open up a few minds and make them think. That I think is the true purpose of photography.

    1. Uday thanks a lot for the comment; its much appreciated.
      This photograph means a lot to me and I look at it often. There was something very special about this girl although it is hard to explain why I feel that.
      I totally agree with your thoughts about photography too!! :)

  12. It’s really sad and it makes me sad every time one is reminded of all the injustices …. It should not be this that some have in abundance, and some nothing at all really, it would be resources for all if not greed existed! :-(

    1. Greed is the real culprit, I think you have said it perfectly. Also an uncaring view of the world by the people with the power and money.
      Its always been the way and is unlikely to change any time soon. It seems, with a few exceptions, that the accumulation of wealth is directly proportional to the lack of caring in people.
      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment :)

  13. It is a very powerful and hard hitting portrait…. as are your words…. We live in comparative luxury… and bemoan our fate… and she?…. ’tis a travesty in justice in this World of ours… xx.

    1. Many thanks Shakti for commenting. You ask a very good question. I’ll try my best to answer:
      A good portrait, a desire to capture scenes that might bring awareness to others, the chance to try to make some of society’s ignored and forgotten feel special, important and valuable; if just for a moment and the hope that the images might get those children noticed by a local school (this is ongoing)
      It’s tough to make those statements without feeling a bit patronising; if some of those kids get into that school though and start learning, who cares!! :)
      Once again thanks and I’m glad you like the picture :)

    1. Thanks for commenting; glad you like the photo.
      On a flight from Delhi to London recently I was sat next to a high caste businessman who told me not to feel too sorry for the untouchables. Apparently, they were born into a life of destitution and misery for sins in previous lives. I suppose that’s a view that suits if one is born into a life of privilege!

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