Thursday, November 20, 2014

Student + Nirvanavan Foundation, Alwar, Rajasthan, India, November of 2013

On this afternoon we walked through one of the villages associated with Nirvanavan Foundation in search of the students, but had some tough luck finding them. The sun was perfect, but it seemed that photographing them at the school was much easier than in the village. We made a few images in a couple of locations, and thought perhaps that we had finished for the afternoon as we were walking back to the office.

As we turned the corner to get back to the main road, this young girl caught my full attention. She was sitting in front of her house along with her mother. They were taking care of some chores when she saw me in return. She was of course quite shocked, wondered about this stranger in the middle of her out-of-the-way village. My friends from the foundation were also surprised that she caught my attention so fully, and even more so at my request to photograph her. Nonetheless they pushed forward and asked the mother's permission to do so.

Since the men were also from these villages, the family agreed readily and we set up to make her portrait. The entire time I could only think of her face and nothing else. The environment attracted me little, neither did the texture of her clothing. What engaged me were her features and how she assembled them to form the most incredible expressions.

Here was a girl never in the presence of a camera, even more so such a stranger… yet she was able to in a spontaneous instant put herself in front of the lens without any hesitation whatsoever. Rather than the usual setup, a lens extension was added to the camera to allow such a close portrait. The only subject in the viewfinder for me the entire time was her face, this was all my eyes could see as she shared her expressions.

Afterwards we made a few snapshots in front of her family's house, bid our farewell and returned to the main building five or so minutes away. What continues to amaze me with the people in these portraits is their willingness to be a part of the intangible, without asking for anything in return. They offer themselves fully and with such love, trust and kindness. One moment she's helping her mother with chores, the next she is standing in front of a complete stranger to make a photographic record of her existence for generations to come.

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