Sunday, March 27, 2016

Young Migrant, Humana India, Panipat, Haryana, India, 2016

Sometimes it's easier for me to stay in one place photographically, to make portraits of familiar faces, for one never knows what the next day/village holds. Then we travel to another state and find the people to be just as beautiful and incredible.

This happened yesterday when it was cloudy in Delhi. Instead of spending the night in the city, we decided to travel to Panipat and explore a new project by Humana India. My dear friend Kamal was heading this project and we were guided to our first destination by Sunil.

Because this morning was a holiday we visited one slum without a school set up at this time. A survey had been done and a school is planned in the very near future. We arrived to see many children playing in the street, but were also a bit cautious since we had little in terms of a social connection.

After about 15 minutes of talking, as the sun was getting stronger and stronger, it seemed more necessary for me to help my friends and walk into the narrow alleys immediately. Prudent action along with a smile has worked over and over again for my photography. The community was very pleasant, and to the surprise of my friends almost all of the children were awake.

This came as no surprise to me since the children of these migrant families wake up much earlier than most of my comrades in the foundation. The girls were eager to see what was happening, and the adults were very kind in their reactions.

Even though we'd be in the open, we decided to work in the open street since we had access to sunshine. My trust in the community was more than rewarded when the people helped with their support, both in keeping the children organized and in helping them feel comfortable.

This young girl was one of the first to be photographed, as my eyes were attracted to her eyes and pink coat immediately. She was a remarkable, young girl... had composure throughout the few minutes she was in front of the camera and also allowed us to reposition her hood several times. Her expression was remarkable, especially when we think of the number of people standing in front of her (perhaps 40 or so).

After our work my friend Amanpreet made the right decision and accepted the communities invitation to have tea. Engaging the community rather than getting into the car always helps the people understand our work more so, and gives them the true perception that we are there to help tell their stories.

We talked for perhaps an hour more, got into the car and left with all of the children waving... as well as smiles on most of the adults. It was a sweet morning, and a good start for our work in Panipat, Haryana.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Young Student + Humana People to People India, Mewat, India, 2016

Last week was a rough one in Mewat, with our photography sessions being stopped twice by unsavory characters having nothing to do with the photography, the students nor the schools. While we had the cooperation of the community leaders, it seems that some of the villagers had yet to receive such information.

Rather than sharing images from that session, I share an image from one of our better times. On this morning we visited one of our schools within a government school. Humana India has moved onto this new system, allowing out of school girls to enter the formal government system slowly and with a well-thought-out program called appropriately 'Step Up.'

We began by making digital photographs of all the girls, perhaps around 100 or so. These were simple snapshots, yet the girls saw nothing simple about them. They took this opportunity to show themselves to the camera, and to us as a result. The reactions came from every direction emotionally, from extreme shyness to bold curiosity. This young girl never took her hands out from under her scarf, and had the most beautiful facial reaction as seen in this image.

Her expression alone makes up for the hardship from the rest of that week, and I do hope that we return before my departure to these villages to make more ideal portraits for those left out last week. The students were wonderful, the teachers were working hard to make a difference... and I do hope that the rest of the villagers see the value in this work and allow us to progress.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, March 26, 2016

Young Girl + Mansarover Park, Humana India, Delhi, India, 2016

Yesterday afternoon we were beyond lucky to find the same faces from last year's visit to this incredible project. Thanks to the peerless work of Jayanta at Humana India, we were able to find this specific girl and her friends. With only a day's notice our work in this slum was arranged flawlessly, and we were able to photograph the three oldest girls before the clouds moved in.

It took me a minute to recognize her, but when I did the smile on her face was priceless. She had changed so much from last year, yet her expressions had remained the same. We were blessed with the wall of the homeless shelter, and with the help of those around us. This is in fact one of the countless slums in Delhi, and has been around for almost two decades.

Jayanta and his team are doing the hard work here, the work that goes unnoticed by the society at large. They are going into the streets at night, collecting the people forgotten by the communities, and bringing them to these shelters.. allowing these good people to collect themselves, to regain their composure and to once again go back into the world with perhaps a new skill set.

This young girl is a hero to me, more so than any cricket player or any politician. She goes about her chores day to day, and yet as enough love for the strangers in front of her to allow this portrait, and to share her smile with a world almost as foreign to her. Millions will tune in to the cricket tournament this week, yet only a few brave souls are doing the necessary work in these communities. My hope is that our societies will one day regain their composure and realize the work that is necessary in order to make sure such a girl never has to endure such difficulties in live.

Jayanta and his team realize this, and have my respect always.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Our Hosts In Their Kitchen, Madhya Pradesh, 2016

On our way to photograph the schools in Madhya Pradesh, we were guided by Nirvana to visit a friend and his wife about two thirds of the way down. This way we could rest, and also begin the research regarding the communities in the area dealing in the sex trade. Nirvana desired to perhaps begin the process of education in these villages, and this was the first step.

So when we arrived in the night the town looked quite daunting. It was dark, the streets were so tight and empty. We were totally lost until this man stepped out into the street with a flashlight waving us to his home. The home looked like any other until we entered, then it looked like a fantasy. The colors were out of this world, and it was the original mud construction.

Our host had laid out three mats on the floor, and one on a small bed. His beautiful wife had gone out of her way to make dinner for the three of us, as well as tea of course. We washed up in the beautiful bathrooms, and headed back inside for a great meal with the best bread in my experience traveling India.

When it was time to sleep, our host refused to sleep on the bed, and chose to sleep next to Mukesh and Rahul on the floor. This man, in his mid-70s was fitter than any of us, certainly physically and more than certainly mentally. He laid down without hesitation and all of us went to sleep.

The next morning he woke up well before 5 a.m. and was moving around an hour or so before any of us woke up. He had made tea for us, as well as some snacks. Both of our hosts were ready well before us, and both greeted our tired faces with smiles that morning.

This image was made on our way back from the schools, as we stayed for another night. The next day we would visit two Kanjar villages and begin our research on behalf of Nirvanavan Foundation.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3 with available light.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Young Student, Humana India, Madhya Pradesh, India, 2016

While in Gurgaon today, I thought back to my time in this beautiful state last week. Snapshots of the landscape come flooding back, the contrasts between the girls' fabrics and the earth, both in color and texture. 

This young girl is a student in Humana People to People India's Step Up Program, and will be transitioning to the government school within the next two weeks. Her home is located across the mountains in the background, and for the past 12 months she had walked over 3 kilometers to achieve her goal of making that transition.

The wind was blowing incredibly hard that afternoon, and held the fabric against her body securely. We made images as the fabric blew into different positions, while she maintained her composure perfectly.

I hope that next year when we do visit this area once again, she and her friends are indeed in the formal educational system, and that we can once again make photographs, perhaps with her in a beautiful school uniform this time.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Young Student + Humana People to People India, Madhya Pradesh, India, 2016

There is something about this young girl's expression that really grabbed me this past week in Madhya Pradesh. She was from the same school as the young girl in the last post, photographed minutes apart. While the other was serious, this one was smiling the entire time. 

Both young girls have attended the Step Up program for the past year, presented by Humana India. The idea is to bring children out of school into a one year program which will then allow them to transition into the government system, while also helping to improve the existing school system.

The teacher was wonderful for this visit, and organized the children beautifully. We also had time to make a couple of videos of the children dancing under a tree on a hillside, and I look forward to presenting it in the near future.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Young Student + Humana People to People India, Madhya Pradesh, India, 2016

Last week was spent in one of the most beautiful places thus far in my travel experiences. The southern, western portion of Madhya Pradesh took my breath away several times an hour during my week there, and will undoubtedly remain in my memory.

On this day we visited a small school sponsored by Humana People to People India. The project involves bringing children out of school into the mainstream system utilizing the new 'Step Up' program.

As we were nearing the end of our photography for the morning this young girl stepped out of nowhere. She took her place on this stage, was defiant in the face of the bright reflector and expressed herself fully to the lens.

She never flinched, maintained her composure in front of two dozen people, then stepped to her left to join her friends sitting on the adjacent landing.

Her community is a most beautiful one, mirroring the landscape in which she lives. The houses are distant from each other, dotting the landscape like the trees. This of course is also a very difficult life, with children walking kilometers over mountains just to attend classes.

Her dress has been taken care of by loving hands, maintaining its life for as long as possible. This not-so-small detail impressed me deeply as the photograph was being made, and I just hope that my portrait honors her spirit so.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3 using a reflector as well.

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Young Boy + Student, Humana India, Barwani, Madhya Pradesh, 2016

It's time to include a boy from this community, as they impressed me truly with their manners and behavior during my time in this area. Unlike other places in India, the boys in this region rarely messed with the camera and rarely mocked my work. They cooperated as we photographed the girls, and were just as handsome incredibly.

This young boy stands in front of the landscape typical of this region. As described in the previous post, it looks like the mountains and valleys were raked by giants, and trees planted perfectly here and there. The houses are situated far apart, adding to the magnificence of the scene. 

While it is certainly beautiful, all of the children walk at least one kilometer to school, some walk at least a few kilometers. Some of the students in this school walked to our session from across the mountains in the background. 

Can any of us imagine doing so on a daily basis? Twice a day?

Because of the roughness of the terrain, we let the car go without us and walked our way back to the main road. This alone made me appreciate what these children endure every single day… a snapshot of their lives of course.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Young Girl + Student, Humana People to People India, Barwani, Madhya Pradesh, 2016

This past week was spent in the beautiful state of Madhya Pradesh, bordering both Gujarat and Maharashtra near the locations of the schools. For the past year Humana People to People India has been working in this tribal region, helping out of school children join the mainstream school system.

The landscape of this region has an almost lunar appearance, with trees seemingly placed here and there in an almost staged scenario. It is as if the gods raked the small stones into perfect mounds, and sprinkled dark brown and light tan colors over the landscape. Over and over again we caught ourselves in awe of it all, keeping in mind that the lives of most are certainly anything but idyllic.

We were able to visit over a dozen schools, and photograph hundreds of children. As most of those on this social page know, my focus is on the girls... and in order to gain access to their images photographs of hundreds of boys needed to be made. Such being said, the boys in this region were just as beautiful as the girls, and almost as serene. There was something different about them, quite calming actually.

We asked one father, and he told us that since the houses are spread so far apart, the boys stay at home with the family and refrain from playing in packs. The family system is intact, and the respect was evident all the way through our visit.

This image was made during our last day, and in the most remote of the schools. The children walk to the school over the mountain range in the background, more than a few kilometers each day. The people are tribal in background, and have lush traditions including song and dance. Before our photography on this day the girls and boys sang for us, with this scene in front of our eyes.

It seemed that we were sitting on the moon, yet connected firmly to the earth. The language used was local, and foreign to all of my friends and assistants. After the singing we used this opportunity to make photographs different than my usual, of course putting aside the plane backdrops and embracing it all.

I had my eye on this young girl since our arrival, just loved her features and her clothing. When her time came I was hoping the sun was shining as clouds had formed during our filming. It so happened that luck was on our side, and this portrait was made both on film and in a digital format.

The wind was blowing her shawl all over the place, yet she maintained her composure and expressions. It was like another world altogether, taking me deeper into timeless India with each frame exposed.

Tomorrow I head into Mewat to photograph our schools. The Muslim girls will be quite a change from their counterparts in MP, yet of course just as fascinating. As the images are made more will be shared.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Young Woman, Humana People to People India, Madhya Pradesh, India, 2016

This past week my work with Humana People to People India began, and in the beautiful state of Madhya Pradesh. This is my first time in the part of the country, and the experience so far has been incredible. The landscape is unlike any other in my travels, and the culture is so different.

For example, the brick factories here are nothing like those in other parts of India. The bricks are produced for use within the communities, rather than mass produced with the labor of those outside of the communities. The tall towers are missing, and both genders work together in unison.

Also, love marriages are the norm in this region rather than the exception. This was quite shocking to my two friends from Rajasthan and Delhi, and a delight for all of us to learn.

So this afternoon we visited one school in Barwani with the help of the foundation of course. Class was in session with about two dozen students when we arrived, just as the school was about to close. We decided to head to the main village and make portraits there.

Thanks to that decision we met this young girl standing under the main tree in the middle of the village. Initially we were to photograph only the foundation's students... but my dear brother Mukesh was able to convince her to be photographed.

She was extremely shy, but was incredibly strong at the same time. Mukesh was able to help her feel comfortable enough to be photographed in front of perhaps three dozen people watching. She let us expose a roll and then stepped aside to let her friends be photographed.

Tomorrow we head back into this community, and I hope that the other girls will have the courage that this young girl possessed today... a true inspiration for me on this trip so far.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

Young Student, Nirvanavan Foundation, Rajasthan, India, 2016

My work with the foundation over the last two weeks was nothing short of enlightening. We visited many villages and photographed countless people, including the dozens and dozens of those asking for their 'one photo.'
The highlights for me were of course the girls, for they are the most subtle and sublime of all in India from my experience. To have a team there to photograph them, and truly them, means the world to these girls... and as much for me as well.
In this image is a young girl born into the Kanjar Community. This specific population most tragically works in the trade of sex, and exclusively so. They send their girls as far away as the Middle East, and as near as the next village.
This young girl however attends classes in a school put together by Nirvana Bodhisattva and his team at Nirvanavan Foundation. They are working tirelessly in order to help break that cycle, and are hoping that education is the first step.
Already we can see changes, as in the attitude this young girl possesses. The boys are part of the solution of course, and are educated alongside their sisters in the schools.
We hope that this generation benefits from this hard work, and that their daughters will see a different future.
Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3 with available light only.