Illustration – Sarah Macreading

Photojournalists play a crucial role in presenting the ground realities of our lives before us. The power of a still image captured by them grows exponentially when the subject of the image is a child. This Women’s Day, we present to you 5 trailblazing photographers who have traversed the furthest regions of our country, armed with nothing more than a camera and strong will, only to mirror the myriad realities of India’s children before us.

1. Arati Kumar Rao

Boasting global acclaim as an environmental photographer, Arati Kumar Rao has etched a distinct spot for herself. This National Geographic Explorer dons the hats of a writer and an artist with great aplomb as well. With a determined focus on the changing landscapes and climate of South Asia, Arati captures their cascading effects on the lives of the people occupying the lands straddling the serpentine waterbodies of this region. In doing so, she has effortlessly triggered a shift in the gaze of child rights activists, policymakers and the general populous alike. Children standing over steep cliffs of sands along rivers, pointing at a water body that swallowed what was once their bustling village; a teenager gazing hopelessly at a shell of a building that was once her school; and a group of young girls sitting cross-legged on a charpoy rolling beedis for a living, finding comfort in their shared trial are some stirring images captured by the photographer. These images mirror the harsh impact of climate change on the lives of children hailing from these sensitive regions. Her documentation of the oil spills in the Sundarbans bagged her recognition and rewards across the board.

2. Cheena Kapoor

Photojournalist and documentary photographer Cheena Kapoor has made her mark with her trailblazing work around women and young girls in red-light districts and mental asylums. With her work featuring in The Guardian, The Telegraph, Reuters, the BBC and Al Jazeera, Cheena has brought a hitherto unexplored subject to light with her stirring captures. With her camera in hand, she has traversed taboo and challenging areas of our society with the sole intent of covering the plight of the countless women and young girls who inhabit these. Her long-term project “Forgotten Daughters” is a poignant series that captures the many stories of abandoned girls in mental asylums has earned her prestigious accolades.

In addition to these, she has also covered stories of women involved in commercial surrogacy and girls as young as five years old falling prey to drug addiction—all captured with admirable humility and respect.

3. Paromita Chatterjee

Based out of Kolkata, Paromita Chatterjee is a documentary photographer who finds a natural inclination towards women’s issues, gender identity and environmental concerns. During her assignment of covering the Lok Sabha in Varanasi, Paromita photographed a woman who had lost her children to malnutrition due to an epidemic in the village. This incident cemented her belief in the power of a still image and connected her with the sentiments of the masses that yearn for their plight to be heard and acted upon. Thereon, she went on to shoot noteworthy projects such as “Dribbling Past Patriarchy” and Let There Be Light”. These projects chronicled the lives of girls and the numerous struggles they face while playing football, and the inspiring lives of adolescent girls living with HIV in a center in Tamil Nadu, respectively.

4. Ranita Roy

Documentary photographer and visual artist Ranita Roy boasts a diverse portfolio that ranges from climate change to animal rights. A resonating theme in all of her projects, however, is children. Her special feature on “Child Education” sheds light on what a day of a child going to a school in his/her rural enclave looks like. Right from the day break, when the girl child is often required to finish household chores before heading to school, and the makeshift classrooms, to the elementary lessons and the queues for mid-day meals, this series covers it all.

5. Saumya Khandelwal

Getty Images Instagram Grantee 2017, and recipient of the National Foundation of India Award 2017, Saumya Khandelwal has a diverse body of work. Her recent project exposing the reality of India’s child brides, however, is a standout in her rich portfolio. Capturing the pain, confusion and sheer helplessness experienced by these young girls, Saumya’s still images stir myriad emotions in the viewer. With the intent of compelling viewers to support welfare of the girl child, Saumya has captured images for the ages.