Friday, February 28, 2014

Student + Rooftop, Girls Bridge School, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, November 4, 2013

In another village a school has reopened in collaboration with Humana People to People India. This young girl now has a chance for an education at least three hours per day. She attends classes in the morning and then tends to her family's chores for the rest of the day. This balance will allow her to gain sufficient traction in order to merge with the formal government system in three years, allowing others like her to enter the Humana People to People India school.

She stands here on the roof of her teacher's house, in its kitchen. This is also the space being used for classes, with trees all around waiving restlessly with the wind like the spirits present in each of these girls. The long for education and now have their chance.

This was made possible just this past summer through two benefits, one at Artistic Muse Gallery and the other at the Cleveland Print Room. You are looking at the result of these benefits, and for those contributing she acknowledges the efforts.

Halim Ina Photography
Humana People to People India

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Student + Shawl, Rajasthan, India, December 3, 2013

Before we met for this portrait four years had passed. My first experience with her was as a student in the Humana People to People India Girls Bridge Schools. Over a span of four years her class and school were photographed, documenting access to education for the girls of this region.

Then the school closed due to lack of funding. The girls returned to working in the fields full-time, with some being fortunate enough to attend the local government school. A year or so ago an inquiry to the foundation resulted in an offer to reopen the schools should funding be found.

As it so happened two wonderful spaces in Cleveland, Artistic Muse Gallery and the Cleveland Print Room, offered to host benefits for the schools. The result was a reopening of three schools in Rajasthan and three additional schools in Haryana, a nearby state.

She is once again attending classes under the tutelage of the same wonderful teacher. The expression on her face gives away an excitement, and fills me with the same for her and her sisters.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Refugee + Smile, Camp, Muzaffarnagar Violence, Uttar Pradesh, India, November 29, 2013

On the same day as the portrait posted before this young girl stepped to her spot in front of the lens. While most start seriously and some end with a smile, she started with a smile that never left her face. 

Most of the time it's difficult to describe the shyness in these girls, but this image displays this most exquisite quality perfectly for me. It is as if she is about to burst out of her tiny frame, yet is able to restrain herself at least until the photograph is made. Only then do her shoulders relax and her lungs let out a sigh of relief.

For a short minute she is at the center of the stage, with all of her friends sitting nearby and watching. The mood created by the wonderful group of assistants is one of respect and privacy, although we are in the middle of a refugee camp filled with boys running around and men curious to know the purpose of the work.

She sat for at least an hour before her chance came, and was overjoyed even as her time in front of the lens lasted less than three minutes. She, like her friends, asked for nothing. To be there and to experience such humility and love is an indescribable honor. Here is a young stranger to me, yet she looks at me through the lens like she has known me her entire life.

The reality is that my eyes may never see her again, but her features are etched permanently into my memory. I will always remember arriving early in the afternoon, walking up and down the small road looking for a good spot, being told that the lush side happens to be private property, and that the more arid land belongs to the refugees at the moment. 

I remember asking the adults to tell the children that we will begin in an hour and then watching the children run our way immediately. I remember the feeling inside as four dozen or so girls sat next to me, and the expressions of wonder on each of their faces. I remember feeling like the luckiest person on this earth, and hoping that the images will produce justice on their behalf.

Etched are also the smells of the camp, the remoteness and its associated hardship… the lack of sanitation and toilets, as well as the knowledge that these children will be sleeping without beds nor blankets while we are provided both at our host's home in the evening. 

This young girl's expression brings it all flooding back.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M2, edited for size and contrast only.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Girl + Refugee, Camp, Muzaffarnagar Violence, Uttar Pradesh, India, November 30, 2013

On November 30 of last year her portrait was made one early morning. She was living in a camp constructed for the refugees of the recent violence in the state of Uttar Pradesh, India. Her family had been uprooted from its home and forced to travel to a safer region where they have been given a plot of land to rebuild their lives.

The people in the camps reside in a various assortment of homes, from simple fabric tents to humble one-room homes made from mud and bricks. Anything more than this is truly a luxury. Some of the camps have a public bathroom and a water well, but many lack one or perhaps even both. The girls and women are forced to wait for the cover of darkness in order to relieve themselves, rather than risk the discomfort of doing so in public view.

When we arrived my eyes were overwhelmed by the number of children; they were everywhere and all so vibrant. Each face was as beautiful as the next, and held a reservoir of emotions unfit for any population and much less so for the youth. This was our last day in the camps and this was our last community to photograph. More than fifty or so girls waited an hour or more for their chance to be photographed, and I did my best to provide them with the chance to express themselves on film.

Four good men from the camp helped me out immensely, and cleared the area of most men and boys after both groups had been photographed of course. They were so gentle with the young girls and I remember this making such an impression on me. Then this young girl stepped up and my guide noticed a reaction on my face. He responded this way: 'you really like this one.'

She was so small, had the clearest of eyes in the crowd and produced this incredibly powerful stare. The sunlight did nothing to diminish this, and it made her even more exceptional. Going through the negatives I will also admit that all of the girls from these camps produced a profound level of respect in me, both for their strength in the midst of their hardships and for their abilities to share this with me through the lens.

There was no favorite regardless of my reaction… she just caught me off guard.

Foundations and non-governmental groups are helping this population regain a footing in society, but the work is extremely difficult. Without the support of the formal structures, these families fear going back to their villages and must make do with an environment which is already extremely hard for those established within it. Jobs were almost non-existent before their arrival, and now are up for grabs between many more hands.

However certain families from the surrounding villages have permanently given their lands away to this population, have provided building material and security under which to support their families. I was just as moved by their actions and hope to revisit this area next spring.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Parents, Nirvana, Advaita Garden, Alwar, Rajasthan, India, November, 2013

We stepped out of the truck after a day of photography and were greeted by Nirvana Bodhisattva's parents. They were sitting in front of Advaita Garden and enjoying the setting sun. Quickly the camera was removed from the bag and set on the tripod. This is the result of that moment.

Nirvana leads an incredible team at Nirvanavan Foundation, and provides services to the surrounding villages as well as the communities of the Kanjar and Nat. These communities exclusively make a living from the sex trade, and place their girls on small benches in front of their homes for sale to the passing traffic.

For more information about the good work being accomplished in and around Alwar, Rajasthan please follow the link provided.

Nirvanavan Foundation
Halim Ina Photography

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Advaita + Student, Khar Bas Slum, Alwar, Rajasthan, India, Over the Last Three Months

While my experience with these young girls is firsthand, sometimes those viewing them have very little to go on other than the expressions, the surroundings. In this case, we have a story to go along with them. In my dear friend's words:

'Halim Ina had brought with him Friendship Bands made by a little girl in America for the girls of Bodhivriksha schools. A few bands were tied to girls at the Khar Bas slum by Advaita Roy Verma. Today Advaita took her time from school to visit the Dhobhi ghatta school to tie the bands. Advaita will be visiting the Bodhivriksha schools from time to time to tie the band that were sent with so much love and care.'

I take very little credit for this act other than carrying the bracelets with me, but accept Nirvana's kind words with humility. The  black and white image was made three months ago during my time in Rajasthan, and the color image was just made this week, both of the same girl!

Monday, February 10, 2014

Student + Safety Pin, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, November, 2013

When four years separates my visits time reveals so much. We visited Banganga once again today, and walked over to the leader's home to check on his daughter. She happened to be standing next to this young girl and we invited her to be photographed also. One second's glance at her features reminded me of a young girl from my last visit four years ago, perhaps her age at the time. Through my friend I asked if she had an older sister. She was surprised at the question but smiled at the same time, knowing that her sister was photographed by me four years ago. She walked inside to call her sister who then stepped outside smiling also. These are the experiences that make this work that much more enjoyable.

We celebrate that the school in her village has been reopened through a collaboration with Humana People to People India. She and her sisters can now attend classes once again, pick up those small pieces of chalk and scribble their names on the portable chalkboards in their delicate hands. The circle has been maintained, the work has come to represent the very people in the images.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Monkey + Wall, Virat Nagar, Rajasthan, India, November 13, 2013

I happened to be photographing a pattern on an adjacent wall when this face appeared out of nowhere. The camera was turned up and to the left, exposing four frames quickly. My friend Patrick has been asking me for six or so years to photograph a monkey, and his was the first name that came to mind at that very moment.

Note: A Hasselblad 555ELD/120mm combination was used for this image, later scanned for the sake of this initial presentation through the negative sleeve.

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Hands + Bracelets, Virat Nagar, Rajasthan, India, November 13, 2013

On the morning of November 13 of last year these hands were raised to the sky with joy. The young girl to whom they belong was photographed a few minutes earlier, and a day after we met thanks to her older brother. As my transportation during my time in Rajasthan, this kind man invited me to his home to meet his family, and to perhaps photograph them the next day.

The beauty and love that greeted me on our first visit was beyond my expectations, and my reaction was especially visible to the younger of the two sisters. So when we returned the very next morning, she was even more radiant and happy. These are the two adjectives that come to mind when seeing this image. Soon her portrait will also be shared, but for the time being this Rajasthani Princess will be represented through her raised hands below.

Note: This image was made with a Hasselblad 555ELD/120mm combination, and scanned through the negative sleeve for this presentation until it is printed in the darkroom.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Elder + Refugee, Camps, Uttar Pradesh, India, November 21, 2013

A quick scan of the film just processed is being shared here. This woman, and her community, have been uprooted from their homes in a most violent way, and now live in tents made of thin fabric and plastic sheets.

The sadness described above is occurring in Uttar Pradesh, India. Tens of thousands of people are living in over two dozen camps, with only the help of the local villagers being offered. The government is absent thus far, and into this void the local villagers have stepped. They have given their lands for the sake of this community, and have also provided the building materials for proper homes to be built.

Note: This image was made with available light, on a dirt path and with a Hasselblad 555ELD/180mm combination onto the film shown in the scan.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Refugee + Camps, Uttar Pradesh, India, November 24, 2013

The first quarter of film has been scanned so far, and the excitement has increased with every face. Looking through the scans is like reliving the travels, seeing the images turn positive two months later is indescribable. 

Seeing this young girl's spectrum of expressions made me pause tonight. She has seen so much over her lifetime, and even more so since she was forcefully removed from her home almost eight months ago. Violence between religious communities has once again affected those most vulnerable, and now only thin plastic sheets separate her from the cold nights.

Knowing a little about her experiences makes me feel that this series is reversed, that her smile should be fading rather than building. This is a tribute to her strength and has proven to me once again that those seemingly defeated cannot be counted out by any means.

She is, like her sisters throughout my portfolio, peerless. These images were made without a moment's notice, yet she is as flawless as any ever photographed. 

So much more than this she is, and I remember myself scrambling for rolls as she stood so confidently in front of the lens. A small pond was behind her, with tall grasses acting as a backdrop. Her expressions were as serene as the scene around us. Making her image from a distance seemed natural, but my instinct was to get close to her to allow for a more intimate exchange. Seeing these images has left me speechless tonight.

Our host family has provided her community with land on which more proper homes could be built, and structures have already been started. During my week alone four homes were built, and more were on their way. I hope that her new home is a peaceful one, and that one day she can return to her original community.

Note: This series made with a Hasselblad 555ELD/180mm combination, and roughly scanned for this preview through the negative protective sleeve.