Sunday, June 21, 2009

In a Temple, Nirvanavan Foundation, India, 2008


















We arrive at this village of traditional prostitution a little after noon. Everyone from Nirvanavan Foundation seems to be a little uneasy. This is after all their first time in this area. It is located behind a busy market and the largest of the villages associated with the foundation's plan to expand. The only strangers that usually visit this collection of homes are men looking for prostitutes, strangers looking to do business. This is after all a village dealing specifically with the trade of sex.

We are greeted immediately after unloading by a group of young men who invite us to a home for tea. While a certain amount of conversation occurs, it is definitely quiet. Everyone seems to be waiting for the strangest of the strangers to say something. Since I lack the language to do so, my album of portraits is shown to them. In one instant, their faces light up. They spot one of their aunts from Pipli Village in my book. Smiles replace the looks of reservation. We now have volunteers at our service who walk around looking for children to photograph. The provide us with the grounds of a temple for the photography and bring the girls first, then the boys.

As we photograph, the caretaker of the temple grounds assumes his role. He walks around with a stick and puts some order in place. However, it seems that his version of order means yelling at the girls and hitting them with this stick. While the girls' response to this treatment is within normal, my reaction to the treatment is otherwise. There are several times when the caretaker notices my agitation at his actions, mainly from my outbursts. After about fifteen minutes, I advise my dear brother Nirvana that the session is over and that we are to leave the premise without finishing with the photography, regardless of their unfinished work. The foundation realizes that my photography is for the good of the children and when the photography causes harm to the children, then it has done the reverse of its intention. After a few minutes of negotiation, the caretaker calms down a little bit and is removed from his responsibility of arranging order by this form of discipline. The faces of the girls light up and they line up wonderfully for their portraits, one by one.

For more portraits from this temple, you may visit halimina.org for a viewing.