Sunday, December 27, 2009

Girl Student, Near Virat Nagar, Rajasthan, India, November 19, 2009

We work around the clock now, making portraits when last year we would be resting. Instead of working early in the morning and late in the afternoon when the sun is low, now we work in between using a reflector and usually two volunteers.

We make use of existing household items, place them next to a low, wooden chair. The two men with the reflector stand behind me to the right, holding the reflector high and pointing it down to her face. She ignores the bright light and stares into the lens.

Her classmates sit to her left, neatly and watching events unfolding. To her right, a few men gather quietly about four meters away.

We finish with the photography and then move on with the videography. Three meetings occur, the first one of which is a meeting of farmers. They collect themselves once a month, at times twice a month, to discuss issues and to contribute to a fund from which they can make loans to each other.

The next meeting is that of women who talk about issues dealing with health, medicine, education, loans and the like. The last meeting involves the girls and is a way for them to voice their thoughts, their needs and desires. Rarely in this society are such girls given an opportunity to do so in my limited experience. Even though many of them remain silent, this is a beginning and their smiles attest to their joy in having such an audience.

We end by having lunch at the home of the teacher. The meal is prepared and we are given a place to sit. As is the custom, the visitors are given their food first and are expected to finish their meal before anyone else in the household eats. At first, this was most difficult for me to do, coming from a land where the hosts and guests eat at the same time. After four years, it has become a little easier and we finish our meal, wash our hands with water provided and make our way to the next village, hoping that the hosts have their meal after our departure.