Sunday, November 29, 2009

Banjara Girls, Alwar District, Rajasthan, India, November 6, 2009

This is my fourth year with these girls and their small community. My work with them has spanned two foundations, beginning with Humana People to People India and presently with Nirvanavan Foundation. At this time, they lack a school, live in tents, lack water and electricity and live on land that is in question according to the folks living in the town nearby.

The surrounding community wants them to leave and have made that quite clear. In great thanks to Nirvanavan Foundation, a case has been made on their behalf in the court system and now their voices are being heard. This community lacks land, ration cards and the ability to vote as well.

Since the beginning, they have heard from me that they will never be forgotten, regardless of their status with the foundations. Last year, with the great help of Nirvanavan Foundation, we found them and continued our documentation.

On this day, we arrive with their photographs from last year and hand them out to the children. At first, the men are a little hesitant to allow the photography. After the good people of the foundation speak to them for a little bit, the girls line up and wait for their photographs to be made. They all know that they will receive their pictures before my departure this year.

We make a studio with the materials given to us and portraits shorty thereafter. The girls are just wonderful, in light of the difficulties surrounding them. It is glances like theirs that keep me going. When you look at this picture, do you see their faces? Do you see the love in their eyes, their smiles?

I do.

You have my thanks for taking the time to read this blog, it tells their stories to the best of my ability. I hope that the pictures do better.

Thank you on their behalf.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Grandmother, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November 20, 2009

As the sun sets, this portrait is made.

Her first time in front of me, this is the grandmother of two wonderful women in Banganga. Her daughters have shown me the best of this large country over the past four years. One is the teacher of the Humana People to People Girls Bridge School in the village and the other a mother of six children, four of whom have become central to my photography in Rajasthan, with two being a bit young to have their portraits made as of this day.

All in all, seven girls from these two families are involved in my photography for Humana. In three of my four visits to India, my photography has ended in Banganga, Rajasthan.

On the day of my flight to the States this year, we arrange the school's girls in the home adjacent to this one. We make portraits of all, including some parents. We then move to this home for breakfast and, in the tradition of these two families, are served two meals, one from each family, along with two cups of tea in the same fashion.

The teacher makes rice with sugar and her sister makes a sweet rice pudding, even though this region of India leans heavily on bread rather than rice.

Everyone watches as the two of us eat, me and the taxi driver.

Woman, Beejwad, Rajasthan, November 5, 2009

She waits until the last minute to show her face. This afternoon, we make portraits of all the children, all the other women before she decides to have her portrait made. Every time she lifts her veil, the other women laugh and invite her to do the same, barely holding her pose for a few seconds before turning away to laugh. This time, she gave me a little more than a few seconds.

The school in this Nat Community is in its first year. It has been accepted well and the teacher seems to be happy. She shows us a wonderful classroom, one full of children eager to learn. The walls, while in need of repair perhaps, are lined with drawings of the children.

There is also another woman in the room, an assistant to the teacher. She is just as kind and serves tea to us at the end of our photography.

While the children lack even the most basic essentials, such as seats or even mats to sit upon, they are happy to have a foundation that truly shows them respect, keeps its promises and provides them with an education that will hopefully show their community a way out of the world of sex, a world that the Nat Community knows all too well.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Farmer, Chota, Rajasthan, India, November 14, 2009

He decides to have a smoke after the farmers meeting, just in time for his portrait.

A few minutes ago, he was involved in a meeting of farmers, one project that Humana People to People India supports. These groups of farmers meet every month, share ideas and have even developed a banking system that allows them to loan to each other. Every meeting, the farmers put a little bit of money into a collective fund from which members may borrow.

Today, Babulal from the foundation directs the meeting, asks each farmer a few questions and gives them a chance to tell their stories. We record the footage and then take the time to make their portraits. Each enjoys posing for the camera, comes up with their own ideas, such as the farmer above.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Student, Baba's Village, Rajasthan, India, November 21, 2009

So then the next day we visit Baba's village. He has been smiling all week with the thought of visiting his village with the team and so today his smile is even more complete. This man has over the past ten days been instrumental in the work for Humana People to People India, allowing me to complete my work even in the most difficult of circumstances.

Everyone knows him here so we decide to take a small detour to his home and set up our lunch of samosas next to his fields. We meet his wife and she refrains from saying a single word at the same time, a custom my ears have become used to in this land. We eat our samosas in peace and then move onto the school, where about sixty girls have been waiting for us patiently.

We find one of their classrooms perfect and arrange our equipment. The teachers in this school, as well as the Principal, are more than accommodating, arranging chairs for us and even writing the names of the girls down for us. One at a time, the girls sit down for their portraits, starting from the upper classes to the lower. Some girls smile easily and some less so.

Two male students hold the reflector and have fun doing so even though the subjects of my photography are all girls. In the end, they also have their portraits made by me along with the all-male staff and Principal. We leave to a chorus of appreciation.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Dinner, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November 20, 2009

She prepares everything from scratch, with ingredients coming from the land around us. We sit down after a day of photography and have dinner, all of the family watching me and my team having dinner first before touching a morsel of food themselves.

Every year, my photography in Rajasthan ends in this little village, in this home or perhaps the adjacent house, the home of her sister and the teacher of the Humana People to People India Girls Bridge School. These are two families whose girls all attend school, first with the foundation's program and then with the mainstream school.

These are two families that tend to the land themselves, without the help of any outsiders other than perhaps some specialized chores such as the trimming of the palm trees. Every single time my team has visited these two homes, all were working either in the fields or in the homes. My eyes have never seen anyone sitting upon arriving. The two men of these households are endlessly working, tending to the land.

They recycle everything, cook food for their buffalo every single day and make use of their surroundings for fuel, food and shelter. Once again this year, my photography ended with breakfast two days later in this same spot, after a wonderful morning of photography.

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