Photographer tracks down family in a million

Click to follow

When Jon Marshall went on holiday to India last summer, the photographer did what thousands of other tourists had done before him and took pictures of an Indian family in front of the Taj Mahal.

The simple act, however, started an extraordinary chain of events. Back in Britain, one of his snaps won a photography competition. Mr Marshall won £1,000, and so did the family in the photograph. The trouble was, that Mr Marshall could not find them to let them know.

It was the start of a six-month search that will, in August, result in the Southampton photographer returning to India to give the Pahalwan family of Madhya Pradesh their £1,000 prize - equivalent to five years' wages.

Mr Marshall's problems began when he realised he had made a spelling mistake when he jotted down the name and address of the family.

"It was very, very chaotic taking the shot," he says. There was a crowd of about 150 Indians all watching. I took the family's name and address so I could write to them. I sent some prints and a letter but never had any response."

Realising his error, Mr Marshall placed advertisements with Indian media and sent hundreds of e-mails to the British embassy in Delhi but to no avail. It wasn't until the photography giant Kodak, which organised the competition, put up posters of the family in its Indian outlets that Mr Marshall had a breakthrough. A family member spotted the picture and contacted Kodak to claim their prize money.

Mr Marshall said he was relieved that the matter can now come to an end. "I have searched non-stop for this family for six months. Sometimes I have felt like I've being trying to find a needle in a haystack. I knew the area where they were from but there were 66 million people living in the region. But I was convinced I would find them and vowed to - no matter how long it took."

The prize for family photographer of the year is usually awarded for pictures of weddings or studio portraits. But the judges decided Mr Marshall's photo was so striking that it came first out of tens of thousands of entries.

There were 10 members of the family in the picture, but Kodak has been unable to give out any of their details.