Kajal Nisha Patel is an award-winning photographer, working between the UK and India. She is the founder of Lightseekers social enterprise, which uses photography and storytelling as a platform to learn about and engage with important social issues.
Kajal has exhibited in venues across the UK and internationally, including The Whitechapel Gallery in London, The National Museum of Singapore, Neubacher Shor Contemporary in Toronto, as well as featuring at the 2013 TEDx AshokaU exchange, San Diego.
Recognition for her photography is growing fast, her images appearing in publications such as The Guardian, The Economist, The Independent and BBC World News. She has won and been shortlisted for numerous grants and prizes, recently winning the Magenta Flash Forward 2014 award for emerging photographers.
I work as a photographer between the UK and India. Since 2006, I have documented the British South Asian experience, concentrating on issues around cultural conflict and bereavement, assimilation and the formation of new identities.
More recently, I have been researching colonial and post-colonial histories of the British Raj and its legacy of Indian economic trade. This led me to document the decline of textiles manufacturing in Leicester. My mother’s experience of working in hosiery and garment factories on her arrival to Britain only heightened my interest in this subject further. She was employed within Leicestershire’s burgeoning clothing industry during the 1970’s, up until the period of industrial decline when mass manufacturing was shifting to China and India. Whilst my mother was a skilled artisan, she was classed as an immigrant or a simple factory worker.
For this project, my mother’s experience directed my curiosity towards the remnants of local textiles production, its related cottage industries along with other skilled craftspeople in the area. I have chiefly concentrated on the local skills based economy, particularly small enterprise artisans, working with natural materials. I am interested in people’s pride when they connect with the history of the land that they inhabit, and the dignity that comes from producing meaningful things. I have looked at the importance of creativity for individuals and the strength and collective identity this brings to communities.