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Jute Mill Workers in Kolkata, India

Lee Cott | West Bengal, India

Freshly dried jute fibers arrive at the mill and are manually sorted prior to processing.

When I traveled to Kolkata, India to inspect sites for new housing estates I was able to photograph in one of the larger Jute mills in West Bengal. While documentary photography is not my forte, I wanted to visually document the laborers going about their daily work in this urban Indian factory. The work conditions appeared problematic to my eyes but the workers told me they felt safe and were relieved to be holding down a job.

Price instability of the jute crop has negative effects throughout the industry from the farmers who grow the jute plants, to the factory mill workers who process the material and eventually to the price for jute products paid by consumers. Recently the Indian Government has provided subsidies in an attempt to stabilize prices.

Jute, woven into burlap sacks, is used to transport agricultural products around the world. It is also used in the production of carpet fibers, cords, twines and clothing. Jute’s biodegradable characteristics make it an ideal material for use in the landscape construction industry.

I studied architecture and urban design at Pratt Institute and Harvard University. Since my retirement from Bruner/Cott Architects in Cambridge, Massachusetts and professor at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, I devote my creative energies to my interest in photography. My usual subjects include architecture and landscapes but more recently I have been interested in documentary and street photography.

I have photographed throughout the United States, Europe, Asia and South America. Images from my early travel portfolio, Prairie Vernacular, were published in Design and Environment magazine. I have lectured on architecture and urban design at Harvard University, The Boston Museum of Fine Arts, The Peabody Essex Museum, The Boston Public Library and the Graham Foundation in Chicago using my collection of color photo images. 

I have exhibited at juried shows at the Concord Art Association and the Chautauqua Annual Exhibition of Contemporary Art as well as the Griffin Museum. I am self taught as a photographer and have recently studied at the New England School of Photography, The Maine Media Workshops and Atelier 28 & 30 at the Griffin Museum.

website: leecottphoto.com

email: leecott@gmail.com


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