A boy sits inside a run-down public toilet in India, in which a group of pharmaceutical addicts live. India is one of the biggest producers of generic drugs worldwide. But the lack of trade monitoring has also gotten these medicines, meant to heal, into the wrong hands.

Death for 50 Rupees

A boy sits inside a run-down public toilet in India, in which a group of pharmaceutical addicts live. India is one of the biggest producers of generic drugs worldwide. But the lack of trade monitoring has also gotten these medicines, meant to heal, into the wrong hands.
Photograph by Enrico Fabian

Musings: India’s New Drug Subculture

When Enrico Fabian quit his job as an IT systems manager for a hospital in Germany to move to New Delhi, he wasn’t entirely sure what he would do when he arrived.

“I had a steady income, an easygoing job, great colleagues,” he explains, “but still there was something missing. To be honest, I wasn’t even sure I would pursue photography when the decision about India came up.”

His girlfriend at the time had received a job offer to work for an NGO in New Delhi, and Fabian saw an opportunity for change. Without any firm plans, he decided to go with her. “I sold everything I had and asked my company to give me one year of unpaid holiday.”

Nearly seven years later, Fabian was the first-prize winner for his photojournalism portfolio during FotoWeekDC—a photography festival in Washington.

When I asked Fabian what sparked his interest in photography, he told me that since his late teens he’d had an interest in all forms of visual content. He discovered the work of James Nachtwey, and was extremely moved by “what he was willing to give in terms of spending time with people and in terms of the very rough areas he was working in.”

When Fabian arrived in India, he said he felt immediately at home. “Even if there were many things I found confusing, I felt very comfortable there, immediately. The visual input was overwhelming.”

His decisive moment to pursue photography came while he was walking through a central part of New Delhi and heard someone screaming: “The masses of people opened up, and in the middle of the road there was this man whose right leg, his right foot, looked like it had been ripped off freshly … he was basically sitting there begging for money, screaming for money.”

Fabian was stunned by the fact that everyone, including himself, was just passing by. He decided to bring his camera there the next day. “I just felt the really urgent need of somehow documenting it.”

The man wasn’t there the next day, but Fabian still took photographs of the scene. Although not the quality he wanted them to be, he explains, “for me, it felt like, at least I did something, even if it was nothing.”

I was curious to know what he thought was the most challenging part of working as a photographer in India. Fabian reflected a moment.

“What is challenging obviously is that you are confronted on a daily basis with the roughness of life, but I find it almost more empowering and more integrating because it gives me a constant reminder of how lucky I am. Actually, it really motivates me to continue the work.”

View more of Enrico Fabian’s work on his website, as well as on Facebook and Instagram.

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