Environmental portraits © Reed Young/ Still Life images © Mike Depasquale
In recent years the media has depicted India as a booming economic powerhouse. In 2011, its GDP grew at seven percent–more than four times the rate of the U.S. economy. India’s growth is symbolic of opportunities, modernization and development, with a fast-growing middle class. Yet the country’s economic success is rarely depicted beyond the business section. India is often labeled a land of contradiction—the poverty of many contrasted with the wealth of few—and traditional media outlets dramatically highlight its underdevelopment. But what about the stories of the successful and affluent, the individuals riding the economic upswing?
This discrepancy gave rise to The Seven Percent, a series of portraits, still lifes, and interviews focusing on the affluent, including those who have inherited fortunes–and those who have built their own success. The portraits show each subject in his or her comfort zone: home, office or car. Because lifestyles are symbolized by the ritual and etiquette of eating, each portrait is accompanied by a still life of the subject’s finished dinner plate.
The subjects are businessmen, professionals, and ex-nobility, all with different lifestyle, values, and political beliefs. But they all look ahead, with great optimism, to the opportunities India’s continued progress will afford them. Text and captions by Annalisa Merelli.
Above: Gaj Singh is the son of the last nobleman of Alsisar, Rajasthan. Born in Jaipur, he was in the army before launching his hotel business. He now owns three hotels in Rajasthan, two of which are his family residences converted into heritage accommodations. He is married, has two sons, and lives in Alsisar Haveli, his hotel in Jaipur. “We had so many people working around us […] but gradually it faded and by the time I was passing out of school in 1976, we didn’t have many people working for us, but again, with this present business […] the bygone era has come back.”