‘For Ground’: Environmental activism through photography

Payal Kakkar's work focuses on landscapes impacted by human consumption and activity
Payal Kakkar
Payal Kakkar

Self-taught photo artist Payal Kakkar is showcasing her solo exhibition For Ground at Shridharani Gallery, Triveni Kala Sangam, Mandi House, New Delhi, till July 21, 2023. It was inaugurated on July 12, 2023.

One may ask, how does an exhibition underway in Delhi has anything to do with Goa? Well, Kakkar's work features the state's mangrove forests, Khazans and iron ore mining.

While mangrove forests and Khazan loss have a great impact on Goa's socio-cultural status, mining too has been responsible for biodiversity loss in Goa.

Buffaloes grazing on Khazan grass in Corlim.
Buffaloes grazing on Khazan grass in Corlim.Photo: Payal Kakkar


Kakkar’s five-year work in environmental activism through her photography focuses on landscapes impacted by human consumption and activity.

Her photographs implore humans to pay attention to the ways the earth is facing an onslaught. They are also a reminder that there is much beauty in the land even as it undergoes a catastrophic transformation.

The images seek to create an emotional bond with the viewer and are a call to action and a statement of hope.

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Mining pit
Mining pitPhoto: Payal Kakkar


Some of the drone shots provide a distinct perspective of how our human actions impact the land and at the same time, these allowed Kakkar to see the land anew.

One can see land and water mingle into shapes and colours. As the eyes adjust to the details in each image, one can see the tears, the wounds and the scars our actions have caused on the land.

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From above, bone-dry mangrove forests, baked under the direct rays of the sun, look like an abstract painting against the green pigment from algae on the brackish waters of wetlands.

Images of abandoned iron-ore mines in Goa highlight the scabrous, blotchy and peeling skin of the earth.

Mangrove forest in Santa Cruz, Tiswadi.
Mangrove forest in Santa Cruz, Tiswadi. Photo: Payal Kakkar


As part of activism through photography, Kakkar often shares her photographs with village activists, non-profit, indigenous and non-government organisations to help them with their court cases.

Activists have reported progress in many pending cases. Kakkar's photographs led to a stay order on the deforestation of a private forest in Goa. Through her photographs, she intends to facilitate the work of activists and inspire the public to care.

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A mining area in Bicholim, Goa.
A mining area in Bicholim, Goa.Photo: Payal Kakkar


Payal Kakkar, who spends considerable time in Goa, is a self-taught artist. In her architectural photography, she has explored the churches of Goa. More recently she has turned her focus on environmental issues. Her environmental photographs focus on landscapes impacted by human activity.

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She has produced bodies of work on mining in Goa and Madhya Pradesh, as well as the landfills in Delhi, exploring the impact of extraction and overconsumption on the land and the communities who live there. 

Mining and Its Afterlives in Goa, India was shortlisted for the Chennai Photo Biennale 2022 Iyarkai Grant and the series Growing up on Landfills of Delhi was shortlisted for Hossein Farmani's “State of the World” Paris Photo Prize (PX3).

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