/11 Wealth

Reed Young, Michael De Pasquale & Annalisa Merelli

The Seven Percent

In recent years the media has depicted India as a booming economic powerhouse. In 2011, its GDP grew at more than four times the rate of the U.S. India’s seven percent growth is symbolic of a country that has become a land of opportunities, of modernization and development, with a fast-growing middle class filling the most crowded cities of the world. It’s a story of movement, change, and increasing possibility. Yet the country’s economic success is rarely depicted beyond the business section. India is often labeled a land of contradiction—the poverty of many contrasted with the wealth of few—and traditional media outlets dramatically highlight its underdevelopment. But what about the stories of the successful and affluent, the individuals riding the economic upswing? This discrepancy gave rise to The Seven Percent, a series of portraits, still lifes, and interviews depicting a rarely seen aspect of Indian society: those who benefit from the country’s rapidly growing economy. These stories encompass both individuals whose fortunes have been built over many generations as well as those who have found success within one lifetime. The project features three kinds of portraiture. First, a classic portrait of the subject in his or her comfort zone: home, office, or car. Second, a still life with the subject’s finished dinner plate; nourishment is one of life’s fundamental acts and its accompanying rituals and etiquette symbolize a lifestyle. Finally, a video and written interview allow the subjects to tell their stories in their own words: where they come from, how they view their society, and what role they play in shaping it. The project started with a journey—from New York to Delhi and then on to Indore, Chandigarh, and Jaipur—to find those who have been, each in their own way, profiting from India’s wave of growth. They are businessmen, professionals, ex-nobility. They have different lifestyles, values, and beliefs about the current state and needs of their country. But they all look ahead, with great optimism, to the opportunities India’s continued progress will afford them.

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