Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Student + Slide, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, November, 2009

While most of my portraits in Asia as of late have been devoid of background, this specific village in Rajasthan has always been an exception. Perhaps because the school is near an open space, or perhaps because a most magnificent slide sits nearby, my preference here is different.

The slide is just the perfect height to elevate the girls above their environment and allow the sky to be the only background. It is pyramidal in shape, with a flat top and rectangular cutout underneath acting as a doorway for the children to pass from one side to the other. It is the color of clay and possesses a smooth metal surface for the children to slide upon.

The school is located perhaps fifty meters to the left, and most of the students are gathered behind me awaiting their turn. All of the girls are eager to climb the slide, even the youngest of them. They are perhaps just as eager to slide down after their portrait is made.

Humana People to People India supported a school in this village until two years ago, and has since shifted its efforts to opening new schools in new villages. I have always admired this process and have seen its effectiveness on the ground. The schools act as 'Bridges' from a life without education to continued education through the formal government school system.

Humana People to People of India approaches the villages to enlist their cooperation in the education of their girl population. The schools then function under the supervision of the local population and enroll girls without access to formal education. After a three year period these very girls are encouraged to attend the government schools, therefore realizing the function of these 'Bridge' schools.

While the school in this village is now closed, it had over the past ten years provided opportunities for countless girls to gain an education and to continue that education formally. We hope that next year funding can be provided to reopen this school and to allow future generations to regain the opportunity given to the previous.

For more of my work, and to contribute your thoughts regarding this project, please visit the newly designed website below, courtesy of Patrick Luu.

Halim Ina Photography

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

The Praxan Aesthetic, Studio, Cleveland, Ohio, United States, May 2, 2012

The series above was made possible through an effortless collaboration with the artist Praxa. Simply stated this experience is without equal in my local photographic experience and parallels my overseas work.

He brings to the table an inexhaustible mind and a deep sense of the world around us. My work in Asia is possible because of his selflessness; inspiration is always to be found in his words as well as his actions. He believes in my work and sees the people within it as his brothers and sisters. Through this collaboration he has joined them in my portfolio.

Every emotion was expressed in this session. He did more than act, he gave of himself as he has always done. Using a mixture that included oil and ingredients from the local land, he shed all layers aside and presented a most pure light. At times it was difficult to photograph, due to my desire to sit and watch.

In little more than an hour this was accomplished, whereas many take this much time just to shed the most superficial of layers.

I am proud to know Praxa and consider myself privileged to be called his brother.

Friday, May 25, 2012

National Missing Children's Day, Child, On the Streets of Dakar, Senegal, 2006

In the streets of Dakar six years ago this young boy and two of his friends approached us. They were curious and respectful, had little more than the shirts on their backs and pants just as worn. My mind wondered where they lived, whether in the capital or far away, having come to the capital to find something to earn.

When they approached me I was making pictures of a wall. They seemed nice enough and I offered to make their portraits. They quickly accepted and the portrait above is the result of that moment.

Today is National Missing Children's Day. Even though I lack children of my own, I cannot help but imagine the horror of losing a child, or thinking that one's child is suffering a life on the streets like the young boy above.

Nearly 800,000 children go missing each year in the States alone, and an equal number of girls for example in India suffer a similar fate due to a preference for boys by parents. Regarding the latter more can be learned through the following link:

BBC News Article

I have never forgotten him and hope that he has found a better way.

For more of my work, and to contribute your thoughts regarding this project, please visit the newly designed website below, courtesy of Patrick Luu.

Halim Ina Photography

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

The Last View of Home, Île de Gorée, Off the Coast of Dakar, Senegal, February, 2006

Perhaps this stone has been in this place for ten years, perhaps for two hundred years.

One thing is for certain, this is the view that countless Africans shared as they were removed from their continent and enslaved for future generations to come. On this small island near the city of Dakar they were held, on this small island their lives changed forever.

According to an entry in Wikipedia:

'Probably no more than a few hundred slaves per year departed from here for transportation to the Americas. They were more often transported as incidental passengers on ships carrying other cargoes rather than as the chief cargo on slave ships. After the decline of the slave trade from Senegal in the 1770s and 1780s, the town became an important port for the shipment of peanuts, peanut oil, gum arabic, ivory, and other products of the "legitimate" trade.'

Does the number lessen the horror?

While sitting on this beach making this image, visions of Africans shackled in ships and held standing for sale passed through my mind like a slideshow. One cannot imagine the horrors that must have passed through the minds of the people on this island hundreds of years ago, so close to the African continent yet destined to live in a land devoid of their people, their history, their culture and their language.

They were removed from their continent as Africans and forced onto another as slaves. 

Can one imagine such an experience? How does a language disappear? How is a culture snuffed out? How is a history lost?

The first few generations might have thought, we will never forget. How can we ever forget?

As decades turned into centuries, I imagine that these questions must have dissolved as well.

I can never come close to understand a single millisecond of the above, but can appreciate the view above, a view of the unknown.

For more of my work, and to contribute your thoughts regarding this project, please visit the newly designed website below, courtesy of Patrick Luu.

Halim Ina Photography

Friday, May 18, 2012

Yet Another Girl, Banjara Community, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, November 25, 2008

A friend of the girl from the previous post, she belongs to the same community of Banjara.

On Thanksgiving Day of 2008, we make her portrait on the rooftop of the school building. Her expression is represented on the tenth frame of the twelfth roll of film on this spectacular afternoon. We walk around town from one cluster to another, treated to the most beautiful of spirits.

While hardened to the streets from my observations, within their neighborhoods it is an entirely different world. Rather than approach me as a stranger and with the thought of collecting donations, they approach me on this day as a contributor to their schools and offer themselves to my camera.

Children come running from every corner and chaos it seems is the order of the day. However when one child steps up all the rest allow their friend to have a portrait made. Only when time comes for the next person does chaos return. Like waves landing on a beach, there is a rhythm to the process.

With the introduction of Humana People to People to India came the Academy for Working Children. As written by HPPI:

Humana People to People India runs Academy for Working Children. The idea of the program is to provide basic education to the migrant workers children in industrial areas of India. The project responds as well to the child labour issue by providing a chance for the children to pursue education to have a brighter future and teaching the parents to value the children's education.

Their work invigorates me, gives me more reason to follow through with these images. Without asking for anything in return the good people of Humana People to People invite me into their villages. They are just happy that these children get access to someone and something different from their routine.

After six years of documentation it is time to do something more, to perhaps involve myself more so. This is the thrust behind the current movement to locate funding for five schools. I have worked with two other foundations in India and have nothing but respect for them. I look forward to visiting Rajasthan in November of this year and to perhaps seeing these schools filled with children like the young girl above.

For more of my work, and to contribute your thoughts regarding this project, please visit the newly designed website below, courtesy of Patrick Luu.

Halim Ina Photography

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Banjara Girl, Humana People to People, Rajasthan, India, November 25, 2010

This young girl and her community enchant me to this day.

As with most of my work from India, the portrait is made from below with the bluest of skies as the background. She stands on a chair and on the roof of her school. I sit in the stairwell and move every time another girl steps onto the roof past me for her portrait.

We are very careful to make sure it is one child at a time and that the child is nowhere near the edge of the building, since the roof is flat without any walls surrounding. Her community, the Banjara, is a minority yet numbers perhaps near six million in this land of diversity.

The name of their community is derived from a Sanskrit compound word meaning 'Forest Wanderers.' One source tells of their role in the salt trade, from the Indian Ocean to the interior. Others point to them as the 'Gypsies' of Asia, dispersed as a people to the Middle East and beyond. Their tattoos might be related to the tattoos evident in my work with the Bedouin of Lebanon.

With Humana People to People in India, the children of this community have found a champion. Instead of days filled with trash picking, they have at least three hours per day in a classroom learning to read and to write. It is a remarkable accomplishment in that the surrounding communities see very little worth in these most beautiful children.

A little bit before this portrait was made, we stopped by the side of the road to get some oranges and apples. At the fruit stand a few children gathered around us asking for a donation, and were quite courageous. I knew that they would recognize the faces in my photography book and took it out of my bag to share with them. As the pages turned from faces of strangers to the faces of their friends, they turned into our guides and insisted on showing us to their community.

I asked them if they were going to be in school later. They nodded. I then told them that we will show up later to make their portraits and to tell all of the others to be there. When we arrived later they were all waiting, in their most glorious attire.

I will always follow them and hope that our efforts in the near future can support their humble schools.
For more of my work, and to contribute your thoughts regarding this project, please visit the newly designed website below, courtesy of Patrick Luu.

Halim Ina Photography

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Dinner in Banganga, Students from the School, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November 22, 2009

As summer approaches here in the States, students will be looking forward to vacation and rightfully so. At the same time in Rajasthan, girls in the villages of my photography will continue their chores without change, for their schools were closed two years ago in spite of exemplary efforts from Humana People to People India.

At the time of this image, the school was still functional. The woman standing to the right of the frame is the mother of these two young girls, also their teacher in the village school. She watches over them as they prepare our meal. They consider me a part of their family and I consider them in the same manner. They have been with me since the beginning of my work in Rajasthan, and will be with me for as long as I am able to visit them.

In this room they make one of my dinners, with the second of my dinners being made just next door by their aunt. They find it a bit comical and enjoy watching me attempt to finish two meals, one after the other. They must see the sweat on my forehead and my need to drink glass after glass of water. Regardless, or perhaps of such, they continue to feed me in some effort to make sure that my return home is a healthy one.

Every ingredient in their meals comes from the earth around them, and tastes like nothing in my culinary experience with the exception of my Mother's cooking, and that of my family in Lebanon. Their ability to do everything for themselves impresses me continuously, even more so with the girls of these two families. Everything they do seems effortless. Watching them makes me feel quite useless actually, distant from the land that nurtures all of us.

We have received some wonderful news this past week and look forward to the possibility of the reopening of five schools. We are now looking to increase that possibility through our network and hope that the readers of this blog will find inspiration to be a part of this project.

For more of my work, and to contribute your thoughts regarding this project, please visit the newly designed website below, courtesy of Patrick Luu.

Halim Ina Photography