We stop by the home of the teacher early this morning, have our tea and then drive a kilometer or so to the school. We step up to the roof of the small school building, set up the equipment. Then one by one, the girls seem to float onto the roof through the stairs in the middle, like flowers coming through a field of grass.
They sit down to my left and step up one by one for their portrait. Their names are recorded in my book and each roll of film is numbered to match their names.
All children have their place in my photography, all are equal. With that written, there are those that have a certain presence in front of the camera. She is an example of such a girl. Before she steps up, I notice her presence next to her friends. There are those that understand the purpose of my work without having met me before. She is an example of such a person.
We make her portrait, she is composed, needs very little direction. She keeps her eyes open and her smile constant, embracing the sun with her face. She then leaves with her friends only to return with a glass of fresh yogurt for me to drink. It's a bit hot and that glass goes quickly, much to their excitement. They offer another glass and are all smiles when my answer is 'yes.' That second glass disappears almost as fast as the first.
I am told that this school is now closed by the good people of Humana People to People India. This story is a familiar one to me, due to the fragile set of variables being faced by even the bravest of these foundations, anything from the understanding of the village elders to the limited resources of the foundation.
This fall I will visit her village, attempt to make contact once again and show them that regardless of foundation, they will continue to be a part of my photographic work.
Below is a portrait of the teacher's neighbor. She happened to be there early in the morning, awake and beautifully dressed. We made the portrait against a white sheet hanging to dry from the morning's wash.