Sunday, July 12, 2009

Girl, Banjara Community, Rajasthan, India 2007

We meet behind a tent along with her sisters one sunny afternoon in November of 2006. This is my first assignment with Humana People to People India. They are having an activity day that includes the varying schools in and around Behror and the staff as well.

Jumping ropes, running with vessels on their heads and other activities have their fullest attention. The cohesion between children, teachers and others from Humana is evident throughout the day, a success in every aspect.

One year later, we meet once again on the roof of her school building, only after her sister is sent to get her, she is missing when we first arrive. Until she comes, we make portraits of the others sitting on the roof, each taking their turns in front of the camera. When she arrives, it is clear that she is happy to have been called, happy to have been noticed. Her shirt is unbuttoned at first, then she fixes herself up and takes her turn.

We make perhaps about 120 negatives of her, far beyond the average even for me. We make portraits with both of her hair clips, with one of them, with none of them. She cooperates every time, albeit with the slightest of hesitation due mostly to so many people in attendance.

On the last roll, her shyness overtakes her and she runs down the stairs and out of the building. She forgets two things however, her hair clips. We call out for her, she smiles and waits for me to hand the clips to her, a smile all over her face as well as those of her sisters, seeing me running down to do something that perhaps few like me have done for her.

Up on the roof again, we decide to visit their camp which is just 100 meters or so from the building, a row of tents and nothing more, made up of plastic and cloth. We arrive at her family's tent, her mother is cooking inside and her father is standing outside. We are introduced and he asks about my intention in the most respectful and calm manner.

First he sees my album, page after page of faces from India and abroad. Then when the page of his daughter's portrait is about to be turned, I look at their faces and turn that page. The young girl's face is filled with absolute happiness and pride, turning to her father to see his reaction instantly. He is pleased and also smiles.

We speak for about twenty minutes, he hears through the gracious interpration of the good people of Humana People to People India that his daughters are always in my thoughts, that they understand my work without need for words, that their portraits are supremely natural. He is also asked for his permission to continue my photography. When he provides it straight away, he learns through the interpreters of my plan to return every year for their portraits, to follow them even if they are outside the responsibility of the foundation, even if they move further away.

He smiles, shakes my hand and invites us to dinner later that evening. We thank him and reserve that visit for another evening since my friends are unable to attend. That evening will hopefully happen this year.

The following year, with the help of the good people of Nirvanavan Foundation, we find her and her camp, having moved to a place distant from their previous encampment. Three days were spent finding them, with Nirvana never giving up the search. We arrive and to their absolute surprise, we pull out their portraits from last year and hand them to the children. We are then given permission to photograph once again.

There is someone missing once again, it is her!

So the young men head out and find her, she is tending the herd.

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