By: Lauren Ali
ALL IMAGES BY ARKA DUTTA
Weaving in and out of the various stores on Gerrard Street, the largest Indian bazaar in North America, the most prominent item sold is jewelry. Beautiful yellow gold necklaces embellished with colourful jewels and gems, along with hundreds of bangles displayed row upon row in a rainbow of hues. Being a child and admiring the shiny metal with big eyes, I couldn’t wait to adorn my neck and wrists with such striking pieces. I had never thought about where the jewelry came from or even how it was made. I was focused on simply wearing for my own pleasure as any young child would.
Arka Dutta, an Indian-born and based artist, turns his camera on the production of these precious pieces and exposes the poor conditions in which the jewelry makers in Kolkata work. The men and women operate in these cramped and confined work spaces that are cut off from the basic amenities they require. Poor lighting conditions, lack of clean water, little sanitation and acidic fumes are just a few of the insufferable conditions the employees face. To top it all off, the growing demand for jewelry results in longer hours worked, along with an unbelievably small pay grade. Dutta hopes these images will expose the hardships these people face, as well as create a positive change in their work setting. To view more of his work and explorations, visit his website and follow him on Twitter: @arka_dutta.