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.

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