Indian middle class

The growing middle class is the face of the Indian upswing.  Excellently trained, ready to perform and happy to consume, the young social climbers liberate themselves from the burden of the past. But what do they believe in? What do they dream about? What keeps them going?

These are the opening lines for the feature about the growing middle class in India, written by Sebastian Matthes and published by the German business weekly WirtschaftsWoche. I was just informed that the feature is nominated for a CNN award, which made me very happy naturally, only that unfortunately I have not been able to read it as I do not speak German!

Never the less, I find the Indian middle class a very interesting subject to document, and I enjoyed traveling and shooting. As in many cases, the magazine does not always choose to publish the same images as the photographer would consider as his first choice, so I am attaching some of my options here. I think it gives a nice perspective on the process of work on such editorial assignments. The pictures where taken in the span of three days in five cities in India, Chennai, Bangalore, Gurgaon, Delhi, and Noida.

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Ramya Chandrasekaran, 30, PR Manager at a local bar in Chennai. “My present life would have been unthinkable in India two decades ago”. Ramya Chandrasekaran regularly commutes between Malaysia, Bangalore and Chennai, and has friends who live all over the world. She is very proud of her being independent: “We are children of a new, exciting time.”

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Saurabh Adeep (30) is a software engineer with a degree from a good college, and several years of professional experience. People like him are in great demand in India. In six years his salary grew almost tenfold. First, he covered himself with brand clothes, and bought watches and expensive accessories for his motorcycle. Today, all that is not important for him anymore. He wants to get ahead professionally, do an MBA and acquire international experience. (next to the Motorola building at a Bangalore industrial park)

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Bonita Vaz, 27, designer at her home in Delhi. Raised in a working class family managed to they leap into the modern Indian Elite upper education. Since her studies at the National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad Bonita Vaz is one of the most sought after creative directors across the country. She works for magazines and agencies and lives with her friend Jofree Shimray in Delhi.

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Sarath Babu, 29, Entrepreneur, next to a mask against evil eye in the Chennai slum where he lives with his mother. In earlier times people like him would live their life in the shadow of a heavy stigma. He comes from a slum in the eastern Indian city of Chennai, and worse, he was born to a low caste family. But he has worked obsessively, passed the entrance test to India’s most prestigious Indian Institute of Management. After graduation he has received many high-paying job offers but decided to go back to the slum and open his own catering business in university campuses across the country. He now employs more than two hundred people.

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Text by Sebastian Matthes, Photography by Sephi Bergerson, published by the German business weekly WirtschaftsWoche

  • Great work, Sephi! The Saurabh Adeep shot… awesome… how did you get the even tone all the way around? Did you overpower the sun a bit with your flash?

  • Great work, Sephi! The Saurabh Adeep shot… awesome… how did you get the even tone all the way around? Did you overpower the sun a bit with your flash?

  • That’s the new age middle class youth- living on own terms, great living styles and no compromises with life.
    Good photography, nice brief description with each shot.

  • That’s the new age middle class youth- living on own terms, great living styles and no compromises with life.
    Good photography, nice brief description with each shot.

  • How did you manage to do all this in 3 days across 5 cities! Great job handling India.

    • @Joseph: LOL 🙂 early morning flight to Chennai + one portrait.
      On the way to the airport the next day – another portrait, and then fly to Bangalore. Land in Bangalore – shoot the portrait and go back to the airport back to Delhi. Next day morning portrait in Delhi, noon in Noida and late afternoon in Gurgaon. Edit, color correct, upload to client’s ftp server. Job done! 🙂

  • How did you manage to do all this in 3 days across 5 cities! Great job handling India.

    • @Joseph: LOL 🙂 early morning flight to Chennai + one portrait.
      On the way to the airport the next day – another portrait, and then fly to Bangalore. Land in Bangalore – shoot the portrait and go back to the airport back to Delhi. Next day morning portrait in Delhi, noon in Noida and late afternoon in Gurgaon. Edit, color correct, upload to client’s ftp server. Job done! 🙂

  • @Josh: The sun was coming from the right diffused by the clouds. A hand held SB-800 on the left gave the highlight. In and out in ten minutes 🙂 came into Bangalore airport, did the shoot and flew back to Delhi immediately.

  • @Josh: The sun was coming from the right diffused by the clouds. A hand held SB-800 on the left gave the highlight. In and out in ten minutes 🙂 came into Bangalore airport, did the shoot and flew back to Delhi immediately.

  • Robinsolana

    All I can say is welcome.
    The rise of India is one of the great stories of the last decade.

    I have friends in Pakistan and hope they can catch the same bus.
    They have a few issues to work through, but may be even smarter than Indians, just ask them.

  • Robinsolana

    All I can say is welcome.
    The rise of India is one of the great stories of the last decade.

    I have friends in Pakistan and hope they can catch the same bus.
    They have a few issues to work through, but may be even smarter than Indians, just ask them.

  • Nagarajan Sivakumar

    “lives alone, has affairs, gone through a failed Marriage and makes a career. ”
    its more common in India these days – has been happening for quite some time, but NOW more so than ever.

    Thanks for the photos esp from Chennai (my hometown!) – Sharath’s story is incredible and shows a man of true character…. proud to be a Chennaite !

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone…. Sephi, enjoy your Indian Thanksgiving !

  • Nagarajan Sivakumar

    “lives alone, has affairs, gone through a failed Marriage and makes a career. ”
    its more common in India these days – has been happening for quite some time, but NOW more so than ever.

    Thanks for the photos esp from Chennai (my hometown!) – Sharath’s story is incredible and shows a man of true character…. proud to be a Chennaite !

    Happy Thanksgiving, everyone…. Sephi, enjoy your Indian Thanksgiving !

  • Shilpa

    Hi Sephi,

    Amazing photos… needless to say… 🙂
    But i just love the concept… the unique perspective of your pictures… they all have a story to tell… each one its own. These stories walk in front of you, all around you on an every day basis… but not everybody reads them… leave alone narrating them as well as you do… it shows the intelligent sensitivity behind the lens…

    Thanks for featuring my city Bangalore!Sarath’s story is an inspiration…Brought out the true Indian middle class… aspiring to break free! 🙂

  • Shilpa

    Hi Sephi,

    Amazing photos… needless to say… 🙂
    But i just love the concept… the unique perspective of your pictures… they all have a story to tell… each one its own. These stories walk in front of you, all around you on an every day basis… but not everybody reads them… leave alone narrating them as well as you do… it shows the intelligent sensitivity behind the lens…

    Thanks for featuring my city Bangalore!Sarath’s story is an inspiration…Brought out the true Indian middle class… aspiring to break free! 🙂

  • That’s the new age middle class youth- living on own terms, great living styles and no compromises with life.