Monday, October 26, 2009

Three Days Away, October 26, 2009

It's almost two in the morning and sleep is hard to come by. The equipment is packed and the film as well, yet it's hard to sleep. One more day of work before leaving, pretty much all is organized at the office, yet my eyes are wide open.

The fact is that three days remain before seeing the subject of this image, well at least the possibility of seeing her. It all depends on the schedule planned by Nirvana and the foundation. Chances are pretty good that we will visit her small town on the first or second day.

Regardless, sleep is hard to come by. Maybe on the plane ride over this will change.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Widow, Mosque, Old Delhi, India, 2008

She stands along with her friends in the shadow of a local mosque. The walls keep the chaos of the street at a distance. Outside is a mass of people moving from one point to another using every form of transportation known to a road.

We photograph for about thirty minutes and then men begin arriving for prayers. The foundation, meaning well, nonetheless schedules all the widows from their Widow's Program to be photographed on the same day. This is a bit much and our photography flows over into prayer time.

The men of the foundation tell me that we need to finish. I see about ten women waiting for their portraits to be made. The men go about washing their feet, hands and faces without giving us much notice. They respect the difficulty that we are facing, both the photographer and the women, and allow us to continue with our work amidst their praying.

She stands in the shadow of the mosque, looking to her right, with the sheer fabric barely hiding her expressions.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Outside a Church during a Wedding, Kenya, 2007

We arrive at a white building near the school. As with the other days, the good people of the foundation advise me that we will wait a few minutes and the people will begin arriving. Maybe one minute goes by and the people are already coming.

A few men from the good works projects arrive first. These are older men that were perhaps doing little before meeting the foundation and are now involved in public works projects and environmental improvement initiatives. They pose first and we make their portraits while the sun is still a bit strong.

Then the older men and women come along. Samuel from MACODEF arranges himself to note their names down and one by one they stand in a line. At any one time, there are perhaps thirty people waiting patiently. The sun is strong and the temperature high. Nonetheless, everyone waits their turn and gives me a minute in front of the camera. They appreciate even this one minute and sacrifice an hour of their time to do so, maybe even more.

The trick when the sun is at times overwhelming is to tease a smile out of them. In this way, they will forget about the sun for a split second and allow their face to coincide with the smile. The portrait above is one such example.

All these portraits and others are for sale in order to benefit the foundations involved with the photography.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Student, Al-Arqam Academy, India, 2007

A couple of messages are received today that have shed some hope on finding this young girl in the upper right corner again, along with her friends at a small school two or so hours north of New Delhi. The school has changed hands but many of the children still attend classes in the renovated building.

This small school situated next to a remote village welcomes me every time and shares with me and my hosts from New Delhi a dinner and always tea of course. The number of children whose features are as magical as the ones seen above is limited only by the amount of film in my bag. It is a remarkable place, only one school next to one village in a country that has over 750,000 villages.

I just hope that the next week or so presents a plan to find her and her friends, in good health and waiting to have their portraits made again. The one portrait above is already in her hands, in her home for her parents to see and enjoy.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

From Website to Film, Rajasthan, India, 2007

When looking at Nirvanavan Foundation's website initially, a young girl with very short hair stood out. Her hair was very short even though a bright, orange cloth almost covered it from view. She had a most intense expression and made me want to visit the foundation even more so.

After photographing the students at Advaita Garden, we drove a little bit further to photograph the children in their home environment. We drove past all the children walking home, all smiling knowing that we would be waiting for them. We found a building next to our guest's home and set the equipment up on the safe roof.

One by one they went home, changed into their traditional clothes and climbed onto the roof. All of a sudden, she showed up. She was missing earlier from the school and my mind had almost forgotten her. Here she was, with her hair a little bit longer and with the same cloth covering it.

We made the photograph, taking her expression from the website and translating it onto film.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Girl, Article, Infant Mortality, Health of Children, India, 2009

Tonight a dear brother passed on to me some statistics relating to my work in India and shared with me an enlightening article which in turn is being included here as a link. The girl above has survived the dangers of childhood in this nation and hopes to see the benefits of getting older in spite of the improbability as discussed in the article.

Here are some facts as noted:

'India accounts for over 20% of children’s deaths worldwide from preventable diseases, a larger number than any other country'

'Each year, some 400,000 babies die within 24 hours of being born in India'

'In total, two million children die each year in this country before reaching their fifth birthdays'

'The country accounts for a third of the world’s malnourished children, with 46 percent of those under the age of three considered underweight'

You can read more regarding these figures below, read about this young girl's environment and gain a better understanding of her circumstances.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Smiles the Second Time Around, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, 2008

So it goes that given the chance, these two boys share their smiles with us.

A month or so ago, a blog entry showed them a bit tense, just as they were at first in front of the camera. It needs to be noted that these boys were also in front of a dozen of their friends, a handful of adults and about two hundred girls seated under a large tent.

So we can understand their hesitation to smile.

Given the chance, they show us their smiles. 

They live in a small village where Humana People to People India works.  The foundation has arranged a small school for the girls who would otherwise lack an education.  These girls are needed usually to work in the fields or weave carpets.  The foundation has spoken to the parents and received their permission to give these most beautiful children two to four hours of education in between their work and chores.

The boys were looking on from a ledge at the girls from all the Humana People to People India Girls Schools.  The foundation had arranged a gathering for the girls to meet each other, to sing songs, to play act and to enjoy each other's company.  

It was a deeply moving experience for me, to see the subjects of my photography sing, dance and smile all day long.

All the portraits from my work with the foundation are for sale to benefit the good people of these villages.  For more information, please visit the website below.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Another Girl, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, 2008

As with the girl in the previous entry, she stands to the side as her friends get photographed, since her friends are enrolled in the school. She hopes that one day the foundation will have space for her in the school and that her parents will allow her to study like her friends.

Just like the girl in the previous entry, she acts shy and then jumps at the opportunity to be photographed. While shy at first, she shares her smile with me after a couple clicks of the shutter. She is also wearing wonderful pieces including a safety pin.

The background for this portrait is the white wall of a house adjacent to the school. Behind her slightly to the right is the road. Behind me slightly to the right are two oxen. To my left stand the owners of the house. I am standing next to the oxen below the girl to gain the best vantage point. A couple of times during the shoot the oxen make some gestures that startle me. It causes everyone to laugh and as always comedy makes the session more enjoyable for the children.

A week or so ago my dear friends from Montessori School - Holy Rosary invited me to speak to the children. We had a great time and the children learned much about their counterparts in this part of India. They also noticed the safety pins and, one week later, had come up with a glorious version of the safety pin, placing tiny beads on the stem of the pin, closing it and transforming it into a beautiful pendant or a piece to be held by these girls cloth necklaces.

These gifts will be taken to the children of Rajasthan in four weeks, as a gesture of goodwill and solidarity from the children living here.

If my photography can foster such creativity, compassion and action, then it has served its purpose.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Student, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, 2008

Every year we arrive at her school on a roof of a small building and the timing for the sun is less than ideal. Two years in a row her school is the second school of the day to be photographed, putting her and her classmates at a disadvantage in this respect. We arrive today and it's very much the same as the previous two years. The roof proves a dangerous place to make portraits with so many children walking around. They let me walk around the houses and look for a better place. I walk around for about fifteen minutes while all smile and giggle, the older folks included. I even sit with six or so men for a minute to take a break lacking a single word in common but smiling nonetheless.

I get up and start walking back to find one house with the perfect white wall, with a platform for the girls to stand upon and a depression for me to rest my camera. Again, without a single word in common the owners of the house agree to the photography with great, broad smiles. Little do they know that about thirty or so girls are about to collect at their doorstep.

I signal for everyone to come down as it happens that the school is next door. They all come down and we make wonderful portraits, with everyone from the village watching rather than on the roof in an exclusive format.

After the girls from the school are photographed, a few girls seem to want their portraits made but are too shy to ask. They stand to the side waiting for someone to ask. Needless to say, I ask and they jump for the chance.

The one above is one such example. The school is only able to provide thirty girls from this village a chance to learn. So this little girl is excluded from even this experiment in education. She wants to be included and may have to wait her turn until space is available for her next year.

The necklace and bracelet are her way of expressing herself with dignity. She wants to be a girl like any other from around the world and having less does not get in her way. She makes do in the most beautiful way. Her hair is styled and her pose natural.

We finish our session and leave the owners of the house still with broad smiles, especially since their portraits are also made. I will deliver their portraits to them in four weeks.

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