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Hierarchical Society

Daily Life, second prize stories


Encampment on the ash heap of a power plant in New Delhi, primarily inhabited by untouchables looking for work. In India the caste system, which has close links with Hindu tradition, has created a very hierarchical society. The system varies per region and affects every aspect of a person's life. On the lowest rung of the social ladder stand the untouchables. Although discrimination is now against the law, the hardest, dirtiest and lowest-paid jobs are reserved for them.

Commissioned by: Magnum Photos for Geo

Photo Credit: James Nachtwey

American photojournalist James Nachtwey (Massachusetts, 1948) graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College in 1970, where he studied art history and political science.

Photographs of the Vietnam War and the American Civil Rights movement inspired him to become a photographer. While teaching himself photography, he worked as truck driver and as an apprentice news film editor.

In 1980, after working for several years as a newspaper photographer in New Mexico, he moved to New York to begin a career as a freelance magazine photographer. His first foreign assignment was to cover civil strife in Northern Ireland in 1981 during the IRA hunger strike. Since then, Nachtwey has devoted himself to documenting wars, conflicts and critical social issues, photographing ordinary peope in the cause of history. He has worked on extensive photographic essays in El Salvador, Nicaragua, Guatemala, Lebanon, the West Bank and Gaza, Israel, Indonesia, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka, Afghanistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Rwanda, South Africa, Russia, Bosnia, Chechnya, Kosovo, Romania, Brazil and the United States.

James Nachtwey has been a contract photographer with Time magazine since 1984. He was associated with Black Star from 1980 until 1985 and was a member of Magnum between 1986 and 2001. In 2001, he became of the founding members of the photo agency VII. He received numerous awards including two World Press Photo of the Year awards, five Robert Capa Gold Medals, the ICP Infinity Award and the W. Eugene Smith Grant in Humanistic Photography. He is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society and has an Honorary Doctorate of Fine Arts from Massachusetts College of Art.


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