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14 | AUDLEY TRAVELLERBorn in West Bengal, the son of an impoverished tailor, Vicky Roy lived with his parents and six siblings in a cramped and basic home where food was often in short supply. Vicky dreamed of a different life and eventually ran away, arriving in Delhi, almost 800 miles away, at the tender age of 11 - alone, homeless and penniless. For six months he lived on the railway platform, earning a pittance collecting discarded plastic bottles. Later he worked gruelling hours as a dishwasher at a dhaba (roadside stall) eating leftovers in order to save his meagre wage. After two years on the streets, Vicky was rescued by the Salaam Baalak Trust (SBT), an NGO working with street children, which gave him a home and enrolled him in school. While there he was chosen to assist Dixie Benjamin, a British photographer documenting the work of the Trust, and took his first steps into the world of photography. "I worked as his assistant, held the tripod and carried the bags. Dixie explained everything to me," Vicky says. "The only problem was I didn't understand anything. My English wasn't good, so I just nodded and said, 'yes, yes' to everything." Vicky dreamed of a life spent travelling though, and thought photography might be a way to make that happen. He enrolled on an intensive photography training program and at 18, when he had to leave the shelter of the Trust as he was no longer a minor, he began work as an assistant to portrait photographer Anay Mann. "My life totally changed then,"explains Vicky. "It was a great job for me. I got a phone and a bike and three or four times a month I was flying somewhere on location. I only had to work 12 days a month so in between I could work on my own pictures."After so long on the street it was natural that Vicky would turn to Delhi's teeming railway stations, markets, underpasses and back streets for his inspiration. "By then my life had already changed so much," Vicky continues. "But people don't know about this way of life and I wanted to show them. I wanted to show people my life, what I had experienced."It was this very experience and his intimate knowledge of Delhi's hidden corners and harsh realities that brought an unmistakable candour and urgency to his work. Vicky held his first solo exhibition, 'Street Dreams', in 2007 with the help of the British High Commission. His ability to connect with his subjects and capture their lives with such sensitivity makes his black-and-white images of children in the grimmest conditions almost impossible to ignore."I spent a lot of time with the children in the photos," he explains. "I followed everything they were doing. These are all real situations, very natural shots. Because of what I had been through I could connect easily with them and this helped. I really just wanted to share my experience with others so they could understand better what life is like on the streets."The exhibition was a resounding success; by 2009 Vicky was in New York taking part in a mentorship program by the US-based Maybach Foundation, chosen as one of four young photographers worldwide to document the reconstruction of the World Trade

www.audley.co.uk/india | AUDLEY TRAVELLER | 15