Sunday, February 27, 2011

Banjara Girl, Rajasthan, India, November 25, 2008, Roll 2, Exposure 6

As the title describes, the image above represents the sixth exposure from the second roll of film on Thanksgiving Day in Rajasthan, India. This young girl belongs to the Banjara Community and attends a school for working children sponsored by Humana People to People India.

During the day, she works collecting plastic, fabric, metal and so forth for a middle person to come by and purchase. Then for perhaps three hours, she attends classes in a humble building and acquires the most rudimentary reading and writing skills. Her parents have certainly been informed and have given their permission for her education, as long as she is still able to work during the day.

Today, Humana People to People India faces serious funding challenges along with the usual social and political turbulence. Through these images my hope is that we can help the foundation help the people. Should you find it within yourself to recognize an opportunity to aid in this venture, you may feel quite free to contact me through this medium.

Perhaps a sister school can be found locally, perhaps a bake sale or even perhaps a purchase of this print. Regardless your initiative will be most appreciated by this and every single child under the Humana umbrella.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

In Search of a Banjara Girl, Rajasthan, India, November, 2008

This is the young girl referenced to in the last entry, the one from the Banjara Community. When we showed the picture albums to the street children, it is this young girl that they recognized. She was the reason for their smiles and laughter, they recognized one from their community.

This is her second portrait in as many years. The first time we met was during my first visit to India, during a special day arranged by Humana People to People India. On this day many activities were under way, including one contest between women walking very fast with containers balanced on their heads.

My first portrait of this young girl was made behind the main tent, with white fabric from the tent serving as the backdrop. This portrait was made the following year at her school, a basic open classroom on the roof of a building donated to the foundation. While she was absent when we first arrived, she showed up later because she heard that we were there to photograph her once again.

A previous entry described this incredible day; suffice it to put down at this moment that over ten dozen images were made of her, ranging from two clips in the hair to one clip to a roll or so without either clip.

The year following this portrait my documentation of her continued, this time in a village a bit distant from the school. By this time, she and her community had moved out of the town to a more remote location. The children had stopped attending the foundation's school and she was working as a house maid as well as tending to the family's livestock.

Two years after the portrait above our collaboration ended. Although we found her once again after asking around, by this time she had become so shy, so conscious of herself, that she refrained from even stepping out of the tent to exchange greetings. The younger girls were making fun of her, even teasing her about the attention she was receiving from this stranger.

So we of course respected her wishes and photographed the younger girls. One day they too will refrain from being photographed. Until that time however we will return.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Child, Student, Banjara Community, Rajasthan, India, November 25, 2008, Roll 1, Exposure 12

So many of their children look like any children from around the world.

Here is a child that belongs to the Banjara Community, can be from anywhere and from any family. Earlier this day, we stop by the side of the road for some oranges and apples. The people from the foundation tell us to stay inside the car because outside of the car we will garnish attention.

We decide to ask for forgiveness and walk with them to get the fruits. As we do so we of course witness their warning up and close. A few children gather around us and start their usual hustle, all in good jest and with genuine intention, for they are only trying to support their families.

One of them looks at me differently, recognizes me from last year. At that point the book of images from last year is shown to them and they begin to laugh, realizing that some of their friends are in that book. A few strangers take note and wonder what this outsider has in common with these young street children. We ask them if they are going to be in school later in the afternoon and they all give us the affirmative in the sweet Indian style with their heads.

We bid them farewell and go looking for a specific child. A few of the children a little further up the road recognize her in my book and point us in the correct direction. We locate the young girl's village and arrange to return the next day for some photography. Afterwards we return to that street corner and locate the children from earlier in the day.

Their encampment is kind to us, allowing our photography amidst the chaos. Voices are everywhere and people are running behind the subject and in front. The people from the foundation are certainly more nervous than me since they are the ones speaking directly to the people. Forgiveness can be granted to me since I am a stranger and lack further understanding.

Nevertheless all goes well and a chair is even located for the children to stand upon for their portraits, giving their faces access to the sun in the middle of the crowd. One such face is the child above, from the Banjara Community but resembling the face of children everywhere.

We will return and photograph this community, for they are on my mind day and night.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Banjara Woman, Rajasthan, India, October, 2009

The image above is a still from moving footage. While we are on this day unable to make still images of this group, they allow us to film them during their tasks. The rest are standing to my left and she watches them as they watch her, all the time making three pieces of bread at the same time.

My friend tells me that she is able to place one on top of the fire, one inside the fire and one in her hand in preparation for the fire. Watching her as the camera records her movements proves this to be true.
From this home we move on to photograph a few children nearby, some of whom follow us from this home. It seems that they too want their portraits made but, without the men from their homes, are unable to do so.

Earlier in their history, the Banjara Community were known as the salt traders, moving this and other commodities from one part of India to another, going as far as China and Europe, even to the United States. Many consider them the ancestors of the Roma Community throughout Europe and of nomadic groups around the world.

The literal meaning of their name is: 'One who moves or wanders in the jungle.'
Soon, perhaps in the next two years, they will be a focus of my documentation more so.

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Humanitarian and the Model, Cuba and the States, February 14, 2011

Today, a wonderful woman walked into my office and shared a most wonderful gift with this Cuban girl. Without hesitation, she handed the gift along with the card to us. This she had in mind even before walking into the building. This wonderful woman has undergone extreme difficulty over the past two years under my care. She has remained courageous throughout and has shown me the face of appreciation.

Her words from the card are as follows:

I greatly appreciate all you have done for me. I also appreciate how you are using your God given talent to help the children of India. Please accept this gift as a token of my gratitude. I would be honored if you would use it to help 'your kids.'

Thank you for caring,


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Helene, Model, Friend, Outside of Los Angeles, California, Fall, 2010

While a few dozen models are contacted prior to my visit, perhaps a few including Helene follow through with our plan. Even though the weather is almost uncooperative throughout my visit, she is willing to allow for spontaneity and allow me to make her portrait.

On the day we are supposed to meet, it is both cloudy and cool in Los Angeles. We meet at Vasquez Rocks Natural Area Park, a location halfway between Los Angeles and Palmdale. The clouds are unforgiving and prevent us from making her portrait in the style desired.

Rather than giving up, she pushes forward and agrees to follow me to Palmdale where there is a better chance of seeing the sun. As we drive the twenty minutes to Palmdale the clouds disappear and the sun comes shining through. With some good fortune this will last for an hour or so and give us the chance to collaborate.

We take the first exit and head towards an area on top of a hill. We had planned on making images of Helene on a flat boulder in different meditation positions. What we have now is gravel and she courageously goes through her meditation regardless of dirt and her black attire.

As we end the session, she also allows me to make portraits of her in my envisioned style. The wind is blowing and the cold takes a hold of Helene. She warms up between frames and gives me a few rolls before we both call it a day.

She leaves me in wonderful spirits, knowing that her portrait will join the hundreds of women in my portfolio, that they will see a face from the West that also shares their features, those from the East.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Kate, Artist, Sister, Friend, North America, 2011

Over the past two years we go back and forth, exchange messages now and then, starting conversations but never end them.

Then a few months ago, she sends an email to me as a start of another conversation, one that we are still having to this day. There is distance between us both in terms of land and in terms of generations. Regardless we speak in a common language, she understands this work fully.

She sees the girls in my portfolio as queens, as princesses. She understands the use of neutral backgrounds and just this past week decided to pursue the same in a tribute to the women in my portfolio.

Out of respect, she uses a male friend rather than a woman. She spends two hours of her time in the cold to make exquisite portraits, in the style of my work. She then waits until my arrival home to send me an excited message, to visit her blog and experience this surprise.

This young woman's name is Kate and she is a princess alongside the girls in my portfolio, we will continue the conversation this evening. Should you like to learn more about her, you may visit her blog below.

Kate Med Photography