Monday, May 30, 2011

Girl, Student, Friend, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, November 15, 2009

On the sixteenth roll of film, the sixth click of the shutter represents the image above.

Before the shutter is released, a few variables need to be attended to however. In this village and the year before this portrait, the school faithfully run by the foundation had to be closed due to funding shortages. The mood has changed since then, understandably so.

On this afternoon, I arrive without the good people of the foundation, dropped off by my friend and left to fend for myself. It's a little early and so I decide to wait an hour for the sun to set more so. A few of the older girls come around, but mostly it is the boys and men that gather. At first they are quiet, then the younger boys become restless.

They do what boys do around the world from my experience, test the limits. They first begin with words, and laughter. This is easy to handle because smiling back seems to entertain them. However, when this fails they begin to touch the equipment, to ask to be photographed.

The girls feel badly but cannot do anything to stop the boys. In years past, the people from the foundation would make sure that such never happened because we would photograph the girls on the roof of the school without any boys around. In this case however I am on their land and it's their place to do as they wish.

This goes on for about an hour until a few of the older boys feel it within themselves to help out. One gets a chair and we begin to organize the girls. This is my first experience doing so by myself, without the foundation. Many of the girls want to be photographed but cannot volunteer in front of the boys. A few do however and we end up walking to the field like last year.

We place the chair and the girls bravely begin to take their places. They are of course outnumbered perhaps four to one by the boys, and the noise of the place is almost as overwhelming even in an open field. We do manage however to begin the portraits and the girls ignore everything but the camera. More so than any year before this experience, I realize the difficulty of this work for the girls, and its importance.

The older boys are very helpful however and throughout the entire session they need to constantly remove boys from the foreground and the background. After about an hour, this young girl approaches. She was hiding back in the village and came out once she realized perhaps that it was safe for her. It takes me a minute but then I recognize her eyes, her neck and her stance.

Once she sees my delight, she smiles and stands for her portrait. The result can be seen above.

Her school is still closed to this day. I hope better for her and her younger sisters and will continue in my efforts to reopen the school in this village.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Widow, Glasses, Mosque Courtyard, Zakat Foundation of India, Old Delhi, India, 2008

Like many women in her widowed situation, she has been left to defend for herself and for her children. Instead of being looked after by her community, she belongs to the majority receiving nothing from the State and lacking a pension.

In many instances, life after the death of the husband is a life waiting for death itself. So many women are married when quite young to men much older than them. As a result, the death of their husbands leaves them as young women with children and without a security net. The stories are endless, the humiliation eternal.

Depending on position and caste, some of these women are forced to shave their heads, others refrain from wearing jewelry or from presenting their beauty to the world. They are to remain invisible for the rest of their lives, almost as a means to relieve Society from its conscience. With over 40,000,000 widows in existence, this leaves a void difficult to ignore.

One can see them on the streets, going about their day trying to form a life for themselves and their children. While the news portrays advances in their State's well-being, they tend to the homes of others for just enough to eat and little else. This is a most difficult existence and one made even more extreme by the social norms of the day.

Some will say that India has changed, that such practices have disappeared. It is my place only to describe the images created by me, the lives of the people represented within. For them, little has improved in their lives. The humiliation of presenting themselves in front of complete strangers for a sack full of rice is glaringly apparent. While making their portraits serves to support the foundation helping them, the difficulty in the portraiture could never be avoided.

Here are women that are in this position, standing in front of a stranger to have their picture made. I am a witness to their humiliation and yet another source of humiliation. It is the rape victim being forced to make pictures of her bruises, both external and internal.

The photograph in the end will hopefully tell her story without taking anything away from her.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Widow, Glasses, Mosque Courtyard, Zakat Foundation of India, Old Delhi, India, 2008

What has she done other than lose her husband?

She wakes up one day without a spouse and finds herself without the support of the rest of her family. Her family has thrown her out, views her as a burden and at times a bad fortune. She wanders the streets asking perfect strangers for help when her own family is unwilling to offer the same.

One foundation is doing more for her than her own family. She receives a month's supply of goods from Zakat Foundation of India, due to the generosity of individuals according to their Muslim faith. The foundation helps the donors estimate their giving, enabling them to both adhere to their beliefs and to help someone else in need.

The effect of their giving is immediately felt on the other side of town, where a group of women are gathered today near the local mosque, next door to a medical clinic also run by the foundation that provides medical care to the indigent, to the homeless and to those without a single thread of support from Society.

On the street level, good work is being done daily by good people and out of the spotlight. The doctor of the clinic is barely noticed as nurses go about their routine, as patients walk in and out of the pharmacy. Here babies are delivered with care and love, and pride exists on the faces of the parents like under any other healthy environment.

Making portraits under these circumstances brings limitless value to my work, to my life.

You may learn more about this wonderful foundation by clicking below.

Zakat Foundation of India
Halim Ina Photography

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Widow, Courtyard of Mosque, Zakat Foundation of India, Old Delhi, India, November, 2008

Like the previous images of widows in my blog, the courtyard of a mosque is the scene for this portrait. The courtyard is open to the sky and for an hour or so allows direct light at a low angle against a white wall.

The wall is next to an area of washing hands and feet, where men gather to do so before prayers. So men are doing such constantly while we are making portraits. This is incredible due to the fact that we are photographing covered women in a mosque, with their acceptance and permission.

Over 40,000,000 women in India are widows, countless of them experience hardships like the woman above. For many, the remaining years are lived in anticipation of death to free them from this life of isolation. On becoming a widow, many women are viewed as burdens on the remaining family. While a tradition of burning widows has been outlawed, their remaining life is referred to as a living version of such.

Upon the death of a partner, women are traditionally forbidden to remarry while men are free to do so. In light of the reality that many women marry when young, this means that many will be handed a life of destitute loneliness for a long portion of their remaining life.

The woman above receives support from Zakat Foundation of India, and the good people that give of their earnings in accordance to their Muslim beliefs.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Widow, Courtyard of Mosque, Zakat Foundation of India, Old Delhi, India, November, 2008

Like many in her situation, this widow feels neglected by her Society and her family as well.

With the help of Zakat Foundation of India, she receives a supply of goods on a monthly basis. The widows gather on a busy street next to a mosque, provide the foundation with their identification and wait in line for their turn.

The scene is calm, with women standing and sitting in groups sharing stories. The difficulty in their lives is unimaginable, and they present themselves with dignity and humility. The goods are made possible by donations from devout Muslims as part of their faith. It has been my experience to witness people walking in from the street, calculating their donation according to their financial standing and then making that donation on the spot.

On this day, her portrait is made in the courtyard of the mosque, the only calm place available for us in the area. Outside the streets are incredibly busy and filled with activity. In the mosque all is calm and quiet. The women arrange themselves on the floor and wait for their time. We find a white wall to act as our background and one by one they stand for their portrait. Some faces are covered, others are bare. Nonetheless they express a tiny but considerable part of their struggle through the lens, for us to experience.
Halim Ina Photography