Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Teacher & Family, Humana People to People, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November 20, 2009

In the previous blog entry an image was made of a dear woman making dinner for us. The family above represents her sister and her nieces and nephew. The grandmother stands in the background, and this image  was made at the end of one of our photographic sessions.

Once again a boy's leg enters the picture, the same boy from the last image but with pants. His sandal is to the right of the frame. These are the faces that greet me upon entering and leaving Banganga, and these are the students for whom the Humana People to People India schools are meant.

All of them have attended the school and their mother has been the teacher since my first days with Humana. Each sister has her own personality, what they share in common is their extreme shyness. They have rarely spoken to me with words, only with expressions. The least shy of the three happens to be the youngest, the one in front. She is the one that held my hand on my last visit and walked me to her home to the surprise of her father.

Her mother is also the school teacher. Classes are always on time and all of the students wear a uniform. It is usually a pink/white checkered one, just like the one worn by the young student from Banganga in a most recent blog post. Classes are held in an adjacent open space, with a finished roof and a portable chalkboard. The students live nearby and walk to the school, coming from all directions and usually walking down the unpaved path, or at times through the trees in the distance. If we happen to be photographing on a specific day, that walk turns into a run.

Their hair is always perfect, and glistens in the sunlight. They never complain about waiting their turn and work in the hard light of the sun without giving up. I admire each one of them and respect their sincerest efforts. They exemplify the best in all of us and will be an infinite number of reasons for my return over a lifetime.

For more of my work, please visit the newly designed website below, courtesy of Patrick Luu.

Halim Ina Photography

Monday, March 26, 2012

Supper, Sister of Teacher, Humana People to People India, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November 22, 2009

During my time in Rajasthan it is customary for me to end my visit in the village of Banganga. In this corner of the world I have experienced the full spectrum of emotion, from thinking one year that my film was ruined to having access to the most exquisite spirits in the world.

In one house lives the teacher and in the house next door lives the teacher's sister, both with their families. With the exception of one boy until the year of this image, all the children are girls. In these houses the girls are revered, loved beyond equal. They attend classes through Humana People to People and also attend the government school system once their time with Humana is finished.

Everyone attends to their chores while I am in their presence, without making me feel awkward. The two men are always at work, without exception. They tend to their land, keep up with the irrigation, make sure the animals are fed, check the crops and so on. They allow me access to their wives like few have ever done, and this certainly applies to their children. Their generosity humbles me and their trust adds worth to my work.

On one occasion one of the young girls, while walking next to me, decided to take my hand. Her father watched her doing so and allowed it to be, chuckling at the same time. She was so surprised that she scared herself, and let go after a few paces. Nonetheless we both learned a little more about her father's love for her, disregarding custom and allowing her to be herself.

His aunt sits in the image above and prepares our meal. Between these two houses two meals are always prepared for me, along with two cups of tea. They love watching me attempt to finish the dishes, and gulp as much water as possible in the process. It always surprises me how much they are amazed at a person from outside the village drinking their water, eating their food. In reality nothing tastes fresher, nothing is served to me with as much love outside of my own family.

She and her sister are two reasons behind the present drive to raise funding for the schools. Their daughters have been photographed by me since 2006, and will continue to be a part of my work. They were students in the Humana People to People schools and would join should they be given the chance. This work is dedicated to them and I do hope later this year we can witness the opening of these very schools.

Anyone interested may contact me through the following:

Halim Ina Photography

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Grandmother, Humana People to People, Rajastshan, India, November 19, 2009

A glimpse into the women's strength outside the courtyard is this portrait. With men to her right and behind me, she stands uncovered and with her smile in defiance. This is their predecessor, the women from the previous blog post.

For most of the session we photograph the younger girls, students from the Humana People to People school in the village. Then perhaps seeing how difficult the work is becoming a few of the older women stand by in support and then walk to have their portraits, as in solidarity with the younger generation. They see their daughters attempting to do what they perhaps were unable to do in their youth, and this inspires them.

It is moments like this one that motivate me to continue with this work.

For more of my work, please visit the newly designed website below, courtesy of Patrick Luu.

Halim Ina Photography

Student, Aunt, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, November 19, 2009

Here are the faces of love, of humanity in its finest form. They stand in the courtyard of their home, after an hour or so of photography in the village. In the midst of hardship they gather themselves and speak to a greater cause through the medium of photography.

They allow me to be that representative. Even though they are aware of the difficulty of being photographed outside of this courtyard, they allow me to take them to a nearby wall and work for perhaps an hour in front of the entire village. As with so many places, the men stand to the side and make their presence felt. Although it feels benign to me, the women sense something much deeper. They nonetheless stand proud and with dignity for their portraits.

After we finish outside, we hurry back to the home and I can feel the relief in each one of the women, the girls. They go ahead and make tea for me and for the other guests, and then seem to want more from my camera. The images are spontaneous, fun. The women are in this moment without the scrutiny of the men, and are more or so themselves. Two stand in front of me, then three and then five. This is their chance to orchestrate the session, and I am more than willing to stand down.

The two women above are the teacher and cousin of the teacher. The teacher's name is Krishna, and her name is engrained in my mind with a deep fondness. Like the two women in this portrait, her face is pure kindness and exudes a most divine light. I have seen this light in her classroom, and in the way she makes tea and in her smile when we do go back to her home for tea after class.

Her school and this village is on my mind at this time as funding is being sought to reopen the schools of Humana People to People India in this area. Should their faces speak to you, then you may certainly contact me with your thoughts and suggestions through the newly designed website courtesy of Patrick Luu.

Halim Ina Photography

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Aspiring Student, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, One Crisp Morning, November, 2009

She and her friends stand to my right in an open field, shivering in the coolness of the morning. The sun has yet to rise behind us and their breathing is clearly visible in the air. They are remarkably happy even though we have gathered them here in the cold.

Last year we arrived in their village during the middle of the day, making it almost impossible for me to make their portraits in my style. We ended up having fun in an alley using a reflector and delivered pictures to them regardless. 

This time around I make sure to arrive before the sun rises, to gather them from their homes and to arrange for a chair for them to stand upon. We ask for the older girls to go first, saving the purest of light for the younger students. One by one they stand in front of me at first, then the younger students are asked to stand upon the chair.

My translator is a wonderful new teacher from the south of India and speaks only English. Here I am asking her to translate for me when the language of the girls is just as foreign to her. She does her best and basically does what I would do, translate with smiles and hand gestures. It is clear to me that the local girls see me and the new teacher through a most comical prism regarding our communication skills.

Humana People to People India works in this village, has a school for girls and a club for farmers, as well as a micro-loan system for use by the women. The villagers are extremely accommodating and allow us to work in peace. A few times men walk over and watch our work, and every single time we ask them nicely to move aside so as to let the girls be themselves.

Rather than hurrying their friends, each of the girls is happy to see her friends up on the chair. They laugh and giggle when their friends make certain expressions. The biggest reaction is reserved for the teacher, and the students enjoy her time in the sun immensely. She is asked to smile by me, to raise her head and to smile once again, just like her students. The girls eat it up and savor their teacher being treated equally.

The school is now closed and we are hoping that funding will arrive to reopen it. Should you, the reader, find it within yourself to offer your thoughts we will certainly be listening. You may leave a post or contact me through the information below. 

Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Young Student, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, November 14, 2009

On this day we celebrate a day for children, and Humana People to People India gathers students from all the associated villages for a day of games and fun. We spend the day playing games, listening to inspirational speeches and watching incredible performances.

At the end of the day, we walk over to a nearby village to document the use of solar lanterns. We record women working with the aid of this light, and the smiles on the villagers resulting from the excitement. After the documentation, and right before we leave, I notice a beautiful wall and decide to make some spontaneous portraits of the people from the home.

These young girls are also associated with Humana People to People India, and are familiar with me and my work. They stand one after another in front of the wall and have their portraits made. It never ceases to amaze me how the camera brings this out in these girls. They love being photographed, they love the chance to express themselves.

Most of the time they stand with their hands to the side, beyond shy. Some say that the only hint of expression is on their faces. I however see their personality through their hand positions, through their posture, the straightening of their heads or the bowing of the same.

We finish on this beautiful day and look forward to a full day of photography on the next day. The image included in the previous entry is twenty hours away from being made at this moment.
Halim Ina Photography

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Young Boy, Humana People to People, Small Village near Virat Nagar, Rajasthan, India, November 15, 2009

While boys are missing from much of my work, there are times when they allow themselves to be genuine, without worrying about the thoughts of their friends. On this day a few boys gather around me while waiting for the sun to set a little more.

I'm alone and without a translator in the village. The team has gone back to the town to have lunch and the driver will return in a couple of hours. I ask to be left alone in the village since it has been the scene of three previous years of photography. I figure that the population will be receptive without the supervision of the team.

I learn on this day that the work is much more complex without the team from Humana People to People, I learn the value of having someone along with experience in dealing with the village. As in my work from the Middle East, the influence of the few deters the many from presenting themselves.

We are early and need to wait for the sun to set a little more before making images. The wait is almost unbearable because a few young men and boys have gathered around me. They are as silly as their counterparts in the Middle East, making jokes and always putting their hands where they are less than welcome, such as on the equipment.

I can see that the women and girls nearby feel as uncomfortable as I do, but the source of their discomfort is my reaction rather than the actions of the boys. They are used to the silliness of the boys, they are used to the insults. It is the look on my face that produces the looks on their faces. Rather than seeing the usual from me while making beautiful images of them, they see my reaction to action after action from the boys.

It's all pretty harmless actually, but like a faucet that continues to leak, it gets a bit much after a while.

My previous experiences tell me that including them in the work will help diffuse the silliness, at least help minimize it. So I take the small camera out and start making some pictures. Now the boys are on the defensive, they are the centers of attention. The small crowd pokes fun at them when they pose, when they put on their expressions for the camera. We do this for a bit until they lose interest in me and move on.

The younger boys are gems however, and produce images as genuine as the girls. The young boy above was as quiet as the girls while waiting. He shows me that such behavior is learned and that when young he is as interested in being photographed as his sisters.

After this portrait all of us walk into the open field behind the house and make beautiful images of the girls. One boy gets a chair for the girls to stand upon, and a few other boys help keep everything calm for me. Rather than hinder they decide to help. Every few minutes a situation flares up that needs to be soothed, but all in all we are allowed to make wonderful portraits of the girls.

The school in this village is one of the five that we are attempting to reopen at this time. Should you feel an affinity with this portrait or to the thought of providing access to education, you may feel free to contact me with your thoughts.
Halim Ina Photography

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Men in the Village, Girls Education, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, November, 2009

Without this man's help our efforts to reopen the schools in ten villages would be limited.

Years ago when Humana People to People India sought to open schools in and around this village, their representatives sat down with the elders of each village. Instead of going around the men, the foundation was humble enough to understand its place and include the men in the conversation. As such the schools were allowed to exist, and to flourish.

Rather than opening ten schools in ten villages, the foundation presented an approach that included clubs for the farmers, environmental programs, micro loan opportunities for women and so forth. The opinions of all were included in this collaboration, and the men were crucial in the establishment of schools for the girls.

So many feel that men are an obstacle at times regarding girls' education for example. The truth is of course much more complex. Rather than initiate a program without input from its candidates, Humana People to People India puts together a schedule that allows for traditional chores to be completed by the girls, taking only three hours per day for their classes.

In this way the foundation improves access to education for girls without upsetting the balance in each village. They understand their place and work within this framework for the sake of the very girls in my photographic portfolio.

For this and so much more I am eternally grateful.
Halim Ina Photography