Returning to their traditions

Cultivating organic cotton echoes a return to traditional ways of farming for many workers in India: the way that farming was done a couple of generations ago.

It’s been three years since farmer Shiv La started organic cotton farming and he is happy with the results. Harvested organic cotton is stored in one corner of the small hut in his home. The yield per acre is 4-5 quintals and once collected, it is taken to the market or the ginning mill.

Collecting it in the fields is back-breaking work. From sowing to weeding, workers spend their time bent double, working the entire field for hours.

And it’s a myth that farming is solely an activity carried out by the men. Most of this work is done by women who play a significant part in all the activities from field to market. But they rarely make economic decisions and do not have the same access to resources as men.

Cultivating organic cotton is a return to traditional ways of farming cotton in India; one that was lost for a few generations.
Photographer - Dinesh Khanna

Renowned photographer Dinesh Khanna’s emotive images of organic cotton farmers can be found on C&A Foundation’s new Instagram page. He has worked with the Indian government to promote India internationally, and his Taj Mahal photo series are viewed as iconic. 

But Dinesh’s route to photography was not that straightforward. His father was a photographer, but Dinesh choose a circular career route.  He worked odd jobs before doing a degree in Economics degree and having a successful 12-year career in advertising. And only then did he come back to photography.
In our visual story into the lives of the people behind our clothes, Dinesh is the photographer who has worked with C&A Foundation the longest. As well as creating an image legacy, he has formed lasting relationships with the organic cotton farmers he has met. He’s visited them in their homes, been with them on the farm, and accompanying them to traditional Indian festivals, while visually documenting what organic farming really means to them.

Dinesh’s powerful images are part of a wider series of memorable photography providing insight into the lives of the people behind our clothes. Over the next two months, our Instagram is featuring the work of five different photographers. Dinesh is the fourth in the series and his images depict organic cotton farmers and women at work in the field. 

For more, visit our Instagram page @candafoundation