The courtyard to the school is our space, and the girls sit down at the entrance to one of the classrooms which consist of a poured concrete floor and a seat for the teacher. This is their position while learning, so it seemed appropriate to photograph them so.
Every girl is so different, and gives me an entirely new expression. The young girl's face above hints at a certain sadness, perhaps a longing to tell her story. Since I am unable to speak with her directly, my task is to gently communicate with her using facial expressions and a soft voice. I am a stranger to her after all, and my presence in her world is anything but expected. One minute she was listening to her teacher and the next she is sitting for her portrait by a man never seen before in her village.
What is this for? Who will see her portrait? Why are we there? What is our intent?
She has every right to resist, yet is so gentle with me. She can rest assured that her portrait is safe with me, that it will be printed in my darkroom to join a larger family of portraits. She will be seen by her brothers and sisters from Asia to Africa and all the way to the Western Hemisphere. They will recognize her message certainly, and hope that she hears their thoughts in return.
I look forward to visiting this school once again, but this time as a friend rather than a stranger.
When we do return, it will be with prints in hand to give to the students. For they are the recipients of this work after all.
Halim Ina Photography