When photographer Tom Pietrasik caught a flight from Delhi to Chennai he was long overdue for a vacation, but he thought he would bring his camera with him, just in case. A British journalist on the same flight laughed when he saw Pietrasik weighed down with a heavy bag of lenses and camera bodies, saying that there was no way that he would be able to relax if he brought his work with him. Two hours later when they landed an earthquake off the coast of Sumatra sent its massive tidal wave across Asia killing more than 225,000 people and laying waste to the coasts of seven countries. Pietrasik was glad to have his equipment with him.

Just a month after losing their parents to the Asian Tsunami, children play games at a government orphanage in Cuddalore. Tamil Nadu, India 2005.

Unlike many journalists who came in for a week and left when the news turned to other events, Tom Pietrasik has repeatedly returned to India’s coasts to follow on the lives of a group of orphans growing up as refugees in Cuddalore. The picture above is one of my favorites of that series.

For the last eight years Tom Pietrasik has documented the soaring heights of India’s economic boom as well as the nation’s most vulnerable moments. His pictures have appeared in National Geographic Adventure, Newsweek and in an ongoing project with UNICEF. I’ve had the opportunity to know Pietrasik for the last several years and am eagerly awaiting a chance to collaborate with him on a project. It hasn’t happened yet, but hopefully will soon.

Juhu Beach carnys amuse India’s rising middle-class, 2002

He’s allowed me to post a few of his pictures on this blog, but there is a lot more interesting work on his website http://www.tompietrasik.com.

Ruhelin Bai Bagdaria is among a handful of literate women in a village where only one in four can write their name. Maharashtra, India 2008.