Written by Robin Grant, Photographed by Anica James
An independent farming community in India is challenging the stigma against mentally-disabled people by providing them with horticultural jobs that not only restore a sense of dignity, but help the healing process. PWB photographer Anica James brings a unique lens to the situation as she has experienced her own issues with mental health. James found that members of this unique community are very talented at their work and accepting of one another, completely opposite of how mainstream India treats those with mental health issues. India is notorious for the way that people with psychological disabilities are treated: there are 1.6 million intellectually-disabled people in India, but only 0.66 per cent are employed. In this community, people are provided with jobs like planting and harvesting millet, corn, and other crops. Founder G. Karthik, 32, believes that those with mental health issues just need to be given the opportunity to work, and he has based his community off of that motto.
Through James’s lens, PWB readers can see that there is no line separating “us” from “them,” a damaging viewpoint that needs to be broken. These people are just working to earn a living, with the added benefit of earning respect and kinship that would unfortunately not be afforded to them outside of this community.
“members of this unique community are very talented at their work and accepting of one another, completely opposite of how mainstream India treats those with mental health issues. ”
About the Photographer: Anica James is a Nepal-based documentary photographer with an uncanny ability to express vulnerable moments in their most pure form. Her approach to photographing people is a lot different than most other photographers because she allows her subject to become personable behind the camera lens. She describes her approach to photographing specifically people with mental disabilities as empathetic rather than sympathetic because she also has psychological disabilities. James tries to connect with every subject she photographs because without that connection she finds the photos don’t end up looking as good as they could. James treats her subjects as more than just photos: she makes friends with the people behind the images and because of that her photos become living art.
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