In August 2005 Kajal Nisha Patel left her profession as an Environmental Project Officer, where she had organised eco-funerals. It was at this point that she really began to study Eastern Philosophy, as it seemed to contradict her Western lifestyle.
Kajal began her Photographic journey in August 2005, during a family trip to India as she documented family relationships and dynamics. Due to her undeterred purpose, Kajal tenaciously nurtured her skills, which ultimately lead her back to India a year on.
Upon arrival into India, Kajal initially spent time in her ancestral town of Navsari, where she experienced a harmony unparalleled by anything she had experienced in England.
Kajal realised her time in Navsari as an opportunity to spend quality time with her parents, acknowledging the difficulty to do so within her Western surroundings, due to intense work pressures.
After her time in Navsari, Kajal made her way to Ahmedabad, where she would work as an intern for the next five months. She was to immerse herself into real Indian life, leaving her Western luxuries behind.
Kajal's interest in humanitarian work introduced her to globally reputed NGO, Indicorps, whose principal initiative was to work towards grassroots social progress. She was employed as a photographer, though her primary task was to inspire social change.
Kajal was then introduced to the Ramapir-no-Tekro slum community, by a local organisation named Manav Sadhna Ashram, who have supported the slum for over 15 years. This introduction allowed her to take photographs freely. It is the largest slum in Gujarat.
Kajal was particularly keen to work with widows and learn about recycling. She spent her first few months with a rag picker named Nanda, a mother of six, who had recently lost her husband and seventh child to Typhoid.
Kajal felt helpless in her endeavours to assist Nanda with her hardships. She realised that Nanda needed much more than financial help and consequently felt unfocused and disillusioned. Kajal was forced to think about the true purpose of her internship.
Kajal decided to meet other rag pickers and encountered three particular women. In an attempt to understand the emotions of a rag picker and gain trust, Kajal assisted the women in rag picking. The project 'Satyaprakash' (light of truth) was born.
Kajal was humbled by Shantaben, who plays a proactive part in raising her three children and encouraging their education. Kajal was given permission to take her photo on the basis that she would help their situation. She is still working on this promise.
Kajal focused her project on rag picker women who were working towards similar goals. She was interested to show their positive outlook on life, despite their economic state. Fundamentally, Kajal took these photos to understand the community's survival.
Kajal realised a connection between her professional and personal endeavours as she committed herself to selfless service. She acknowledged that compassion was a significant contributor to the evolution of her photography and its consequent success.
Kajal endeavoured to emphasise a universal message, which stretched beyond the slums and cities of a developing India. To her, the rag pickers embody truth, strength, life, spirit, hope, dreams, goals and love. Their determination was infectious.
Throughout her internship, Kajal worked closely with Manav Sadhna Ashram, who follows Mahatma Gandhi's philosophy of truth and non-violence. She has since devoted herself to the same cause and aims to promote pure truth and integrity in all her endeavours.
Kajal currently works as a freelance photographer, specialising in portraiture. She is particularly passionate about photographing babies and women. You can see more of her work online at www.kajalpatel.com
Kajal also works on outreach projects, whilst exhibiting her work in art galleries. Her long-term plan is to work with Manav Sadhna Ashram, to improve working conditions for the rag pickers and teach photography to children from Ramapir slum.