A story is built picture by picture said a soul. But there are some souls out there who can narrate a story through a single picture. In today’s times they’re called “photographers”. But to some they are magicians, storytellers, dreamers and even lovers.
One such storyteller is Taha Ahmed, a documentary photographer by profession and passion. Taha’s stint with the Badlas of Lucknow through his lenses will make you curl up just like the times you heard a story from your grandma. “Lucknow’s culture has always compelled me to dig into the roots of its rich civilization, which has been a centre for arts and literature in the diverse landscape of India,” says Taha.
To brush you up before you dive into his visual delights, Mukaish Badla is a form of embroidery, which at its peak flourished in the city of Lucknow and later, the world. While the Nawabs took efforts to make ‘chikankari’ a rage, Mukaish settled for being just an independent style. The fabric was initially created with metallic wires of gold and silver but gone are the days when India was ‘Sone ki chidiya’ and we now make do with the simple metallic wires. Times – changed. Wires - changed. Magnificence – intact.
Says Taha “The story I am trying to tell through my photographs is the story of these artisans — their downfall, struggle and survival. They make a bare minimum of $2-3 per day, for 10 hours of hard work in extremely harsh conditions,” delving into the reason behind this series. Out of the 3,000 artisans who once lived in the city, only 20-25 of them can be found. The beautiful art form is now endangered of extinction due to apathy from the government.
Such is a plight of the artisans that they wouldn’t let Taha enter their workspace because of the fury with the society and the government. But it was his persistence and a ten-month stay with the Badlas in the warehouses, tea stalls and even their homes, Taha’s project, ‘Swan Song of the Badlas’ was birthed.
The community's plight, skills, traditions, joy and ire too are brought out through his photographs. Here’s a look: