The city of Lucknow has historical roots of being a cradle of art and literature in India. Inspired by the cultural backstory of his hometown, documentary photographer Taha Ahmad sought to celebrate the city’s rich heritage. This led to Swan Song of the Badlas, a photo series that documents the plight of local artisans who are attempting to preserve a dying tradition.
纪录片摄影师塔哈·艾哈迈德（Taha Ahmad）的家乡勒克瑙（Lucknow）是印度的艺术和文学中心。深受当地文化传统的启发，Ahmad试图探索其丰富的历史根源。他的摄影作品系列《Swan Song of the Badlas》赞颂了勒克瑙的文化遗产，并展示了努力传承即将失传的传统文化的人们所面临的困境。
Swan Song of the Badlas takes a look at the disappearing art of mukaish badla, a form of embroidery that was once prosperous in Lucknow during the 18th century. This art, which involves inserting threads of gold and silver into fabric, was originally used to beautify chikankari, another form of embroidery that also originated in Lucknow but remains quite well known throughout India.
《Swan Song of the Badlas》深入展现了即将失传的Mukaish badla艺术。这是勒克瑙当地一种特色刺绣形式，在18世纪曾风靡一时。这种刺绣艺术将金线和银线编织于织物中，最初是用来美化另一种勒克瑙特色刺绣形式chikankari。Chikankari至今在印度依然颇受欢迎。
Mukaish badla, however, was much more niche. The extravagance of using precious metals as embellishment meant that only the ruling class of the city sought after it in the past. But at the craft’s peak, the number of artisans (or badlas) in town reached upwards of 3,000. Today, there are less than 25 practitioners of the craft left in Lucknow, most of whom are over the age of 65. “Their population is dwindling, and soon, in not more than 20 or 25 years, they will become a part of history that can only be recalled in a poignant daydream or through visual imagery,” Ahmad wistfully says.
The remaining artisans, who have devoted their whole lives to the art, make an abysmal wage of anywhere between two and three U.S. dollars per day. Their work can last up to ten hours per day and everything is done in small, suffocating rooms. Ahmad’s dramatic, black-and-white photo series is an intimate vignette of these surviving craftsmen, revealing their struggles, their plights, and their resiliency in fighting to maintain an art that’s being washed out by the waves of time. Scroll down to see more photos from the series.