Dario Mitidieri, Savita, a two and a half years girl from North Bombay, performs for Arab tourists near the Taj-Mahal Hotel, from the Children of Bombay series, 1992
Dario Mitidieri, Lunch time at Dongri Children’s Remand Home. It is Asia’s largest remand house and its archaic system is every child’s nightmare, from the Children of Bombay series, 1992
Dario Mitidieri, Farukh, a street child suffering from polio, sleeps outside Bharda School, from the Children of Bombay series, 1992
Dario Mitidieri, Street children playing around a vendor who sells bubble blowers on Chowpatti Beach, from the Children of Bombay series, 1992
In 1992, Italian photojournalist Dario Mitidieri spent a year photographing street children in Bombay. Funded through a grant from the prestigious W. Eugene Smith Memorial Fund in Humanistic Photography, he lived among these kids whose daily existence on the streets defy most assumptions of what children are expected to endure and can handle. The children, neglected by poverty or orphaned by family who arrive in the “City of Hope” from the countryside in pursuit of a better existence, roam the streets without any parental supervision and must fend for themselves. The company of other children draws them together. They live in railway stations, under bridges, and in the red light district of Kamatipura. They endure sexual abuses, physical violence, hunger, and multiple diseases. Lost between any societal or governmental structure, they are ready to do any kind of small job. The photographs reveal both their dramatic situation and the humor and tenacity that enable them to survive this precarious situation.
Over the years Mitidieri has made many images in India—from Rajiv Gandhi’s funeral to the destruction of the Ayodhya Mosque in Northern India. His stories have also tackled the issue of AIDS and prostitution in Bombay. But this is his most comprehensive project, and the resulting publication, Children of Bombay, was published in six languages and awarded a prize by the European Publishers Award for Photography in 1994. He worked hard to gain the trust of his subjects. Without speaking Hindi, he relied on Mahendra, a former street child to assist him. When he first arrived in Bombay, he was denied access by many local authorities for fear of “bad publicity” and to “protect” the children from a foreign photographer. Little by little, he became a part of their environment and was nicknamed “Dario mujko mut dekho,” referring to his constant advice “don’t look into the camera.” According to Mitidieri, these photographs are a “tribute to the spirit of Bombay’s street children and a testimony to the contradictions of their lives; innocent yet streetwise, never lacking for company yet lonely, children without a childhood whose resilience and courage would put most adults to shame.”