Palani Kumar

Portrait of Palani Kumar

Hailing from the village of Jawaharlalpuram in Madurai district, M Palani Kumar decided to pursue engineering as per the wish of his mother, a fish-seller. He graduated in B.E. In 2013, while he was still pursuing engineering, he applied for a loan and purchased his first camera.

He worked as a cinematographer for the critically acclaimed documentary Kakoos? a searing narrative on the lives of manual scavengers in Tamil Nadu. In a couple of years, Palani opened his first photography exhibition in Chennai, featuring photographs clicked by the children of manual scavengers, who were trained through Palani's workshops. As a fellow of PARI, Palani is currently documenting the working-class women.

Palani is associated with Pep Collective - a form of socially responsible photographers in Tamil Nadu. He was recognized as Top Ten Humans 2019 by Anandha Vikatan for his socially impactful work through the years. In March 2020, he received the Best Story of the Year - 2020 award from the Public Relations Council of India.

He attempts to sensitize the work of manual scavengers to an otherwise de-sensitized world and hopes to continue using his art form to throw light on the marginalized communities.


Out of Breath

Even with a reservation system in place to tackle the inequalities caused by the caste system, the policy makers and bureaucrats have mostly been those of the higher caste. Making it easier to let the inhuman activities continue even till day or go ahead unnoticed and unquestioned. By documenting these stories, I have been able to shed the essential light on this dirty subject of manual scavenging. I have been focusing mainly on the death caused during the work and also the child's life in the household which is caught up in this turmoil.