Art Exhibit of India’s Air Pollution Will Leave You Breathless

June 17, 2019


When air pollution in India has reached unprecedented levels, photos of everyday life in the air emergency will truly leave you breathless.  To bring attention the daily experiences of those living through this air pollution, Help Delhi Breathe and the Clean Air Collective launched a photo exhibition “Breathless – Documenting India’s Air Emergency.

Two people looking at a photo exhibit of pollution

Hallway of a photo exhibit that reads "Breathless" The exhibit captured the stories of the people who are the most impacted by air pollution and are fighting it everyday, using art and culture to present it to people who may not see the daily effects. It also included virtual reality, 360 degree videos on air pollution, postcards to government authorities and policymakers asking them to act against air pollution, and even boards to sign using pens made out of the pollutants that would be in air pollution. 

Two people wearing virtual reality headsets

A woman writing on a poster that says "Breathless"Instructions for writing on a petition, a penThe exhibition covered stories from 6 cities – including busy metros like Delhi, Bangalore, Mumbai and the lesser known places like Korba, Ennore and Punjab.

Family posing in front of climate campaign poster

The photos, taken by photographer Ishan Tankha, were accompanied by stories that were researched and written by award-winning journalist Aruna Chandrasekhar.  The photos and stories helped to take air pollution past data and science, to humanize the issue, see the impact, and drive people to engage.

Feet in front of water for pollution campaign
Photo by: Ishan Tankha


The exhibit and stories were featured by VICE, India Today, Firstpost, and other outlets: 

The exhibition was launched on World Environment Day with an event and a great showing, including several journalists and media houses. With a mix of politicians, health experts, a musician, a journalist, an air pollution cancer survivor, and representation from the sanitation union of Delhi in attendance, the exhibit reached an array of diverse audiences and opened doors to initiate discussions about different solutions for air pollution. The collective arranged two walkthroughs of the exhibit  – one for 20 underprivileged kids who live under a flyover in Delhi and the other for safai sena (sanitation union) members.

Children standing in circle at art exhibit Man on stage playing guitar at event

 Help Delhi Breathe reached over 910,408 people through on posts about Breathless alone. Conversations using #Breathless and #MyRightToBreathe on Twitter reached over 707.7K people, received over 4.9M Impressions and got over 836 Twitter Mentions from 315 users. 

After this successful launch, the campaign is now looking to organize the exhibition in other cities to spread the word about the lived experience of being in a community experiencing an air emergency.

Kritica Mahajan Senior Campaigner