Thursday, April 23, 2015

Young Boy + Islamic School, Kairana, Uttar Pradesh, India, April 19, 2015

This past weekend we spent a few days in the troubled region of Muzaffarnagar, Uttar Pradesh. Over the past two years violence has erupted causing tens of thousands of refugees to flee their homes in search of safer ground. Some of these families have settled in villages surrounding Kairana, and one in particular being that of our host for the weekend.

Our last visit in 2013 introduced us to this wonderful family and their good works. Like a few families in the area, they have given their land for the sake of the refugees, and have even built more permanent homes for them in addition to handing over the deeds to the land. Our host for the weekend has even built a school financed completely from his own pocket, and would like to go even further should funds be available to do so.

We were granted access to the children from the village in this safe, serene space. On this day the boys were photographed first with the subtle light of a window, one by one as they took a break from their religious studies. Some knelt facing the window, others facing the camera. Most were wearing white fabrics, some like this young boy a bit darker.

The school is in the middle of a very conservative village, without which we would have never been able to make such portraits. Even my friends here in India were quiet surprised when seeing the images, thinking that such was impossible. What the family has done in just one year has been to change the mindset of those around them, to include the girls in their quest for education and to show that Christians, Hindus and Muslims could work together seamlessly like in the team making this image.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M2, with natural light.

Monday, April 20, 2015

Young Boy + Concrete Factory, Jaipur, Rajasthan, India, April 20, 2015

Just a few hours ago we arrived to Jaipur from the Muzaffarnagar region of Uttar Pradesh, and landed in a familiar neighborhood near to our wonderful host. We went straight to our favorite family and asked to photograph their daughters with only thirty minutes of sunshine remaining. Without any hesitation whatsoever, the father agreed although he had only met us for a few minutes over three weeks ago.

We walked over to the cement factory's wall and set up our camera. We photographed three of the five daughters before the sun was too soft for my film camera, and then went on to photograph some other children for fun with the digital camera. This portrait is of the most mischievous ones from the bunch, finally put in front of the lens for all to behold without his usual antics to protect him!

He was marvelous, and truly enjoyed his time in the spotlight!

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M2 just five hours ago.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Young Student + Step Up Center, Humana People to People India, Mewat, India, April of 2015

Just yesterday we made this image of a young student from one of our schools in Mewat, Haryana. Her reaction alone is enough for us to continue to support the schools through Humana People to People India. In less than three visits she has come to affect me deeply, and the connection between her and the camera has blossomed as in this example.
She is a complete natural and is able to look into the direction of the sun without strain. When I asked her to stay on the roof of the school for yet another portrait yesterday, her smile was from ear to ear. She was a star before we arrived, and my hope is that the images made will honor her timeless beauty, and her courage.
The school is doing quite well, and her teacher is quite motivated… studying at the local university to advance herself and her family. The students have a safe, clean place in which to study. They sit on clean rugs, and all around them are colorful posters demonstrating the alphabets, the names of animals and vegetables.
After we finished the photography for the afternoon, all of the students were dismissed… yet this young girl couldn't find it within herself to walk fully down the stairs even though the teacher asked her several times to do so. I was secretly glad of course, and asked her and her friend to come back up for a group photograph… in which she smiled as in this image!

Monday, April 13, 2015

Sisters + Temple, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, April of 2015

It was hard to post one without posting the other, since these are two sisters attending classes in one of our Humana People to People India schools in Rajasthan, India. It is even harder to see one without the other, since they are always present at the same time. Although different in their responses, they both react immediately with the slightest stimulus and run away as soon as they feel it is just too much to take!
They belong to a group of schools photographed by me since 2006, and are now enjoying the rebirth of their own school thanks to the contributions of many on here and elsewhere. Here they stand in front of the temple adjacent to their own classroom, itself a temple as well. It is almost unimaginable to me how beautiful this grouping of temples are, that they sit for classes in such enlightening spaces.
I cannot wait to see the film images made over the past four weeks, and will be visiting their village once again in two weeks prior to my return home. It will be nice to see them studying under the new fans in their classroom, as well as delivering the new rugs on which they will sit more comfortably soon enough!
When someone questions the validity of this project, or presents their doubts regarding the outcome, these two girls alone will ease my mind and move the work forward without pause.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

Young Student + Field of Wheat, Humana People to People India, Banganga, Rajasthan, India, March of 2015

In less than two weeks we will revisit this young girl's school and bid our farewell to her and her classmates for this year. They are now sitting under fans and on top of new rugs while taking in the lessons from their teacher. Behind her is the field of her teacher's family, and behind that her village of Banganga, Rajasthan. This is a magical place for me and the word 'Banganga' means a stream created by shooting an arrow, Ban means an arrow and Ganga is the name of a river in India and is synonymous to all the religious water bodies.

'This holy place is about 5 kms from the Kurukshetra tank and it is claimed that Bhishma Pitamah lying on the bed of arrows felt thirst and asked Arjuna to quench his thirst. As he would not drink the water of the mortal world the great hero Arjuna pierced the Earth with his powerful arrow and water gushed out in the shape of a spring.' 

'Bhishma drank the holy water and thanked Arjuna for his great deed. Pilgrims bathe in this holy tank and earn the combined merit of all the Tirthas. It was here that Bhisma Pitamah rested on his bed of arrows until the end of war and gave his last advice to Yudhistara, the eldest of the  Pandavas.'

Friday, April 10, 2015

Young Girl + School, Humana People to People, Mewat District, Haryana, India, April 7, 2015

This past week we were out of touch with the internet community, and in touch with the Muslim community in Mewat, Haryana. We visited two of our schools in this area and were rewarded with enthusiastic students and wonderful classrooms filled with learning material and colorful images.

The girls in this community are especially vulnerable, and many lack access to education for a variety of reasons. Many of the parents see the government system as lacking, and thus see little need to send their children to schools where the teachers show little regard for their children. Other parents need their girls to tend to the younger siblings, to the house chores and to the fields.

So the two schools Humana People to People India has set up in this area are doing quite well, and have led to a dozen more Step Up Centers to include over 300 girls. This young girl belongs to one of our schools, and she stands in front of her classroom. It is for the time being located in the teacher's home, a beautiful and secure premise for these girls to gain a quality education.

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

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Young Student + Academy for Working Children, Humana People to People India, Neemrana, India, March of 2015

This little girl just happened to steal the show, of course unintentionally. She walked onto the roof like nothing happened, and just took my breath away with her expression and her cap! She of course recognized this right away, and took to smiling the rest of the time until her portrait was made.
After the photography, she stood by watching us put everything away… and I took my cap off to show her my lack of hair. It was at this time that a young boy snapped her cap off, and her own beautifully short head of hair was on glorious display for all to see. She was more than a little bit embarrassed in the cutest of possible ways, as she just smiled and shrugged her shoulders while giggling until she managed to put her cap back on.
The rest of my morning was spent making videos of the school children, now and then looking her way and just smiling the entire time hoping that her portrait translated well onto film for all of us to see later!

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Young Student + School for Girls, Humana People to People India, Rajasthan, India, March of 2015

I live with my parents, three sisters and three brothers in a small Rajasthani village. My father is a farmer and mother, a home-maker. The shrinking money and increasing expenditure led to my father finding solace in alcohol. The situation further worsened when his angst started taking shape of physical and verbal abuse in the family.

Three of my sisters, who are now married, had attended the Girls Education Center run by Humana around 2007. However, none of my parents or brothers have attended any school. As I grew up, I started accompanying my brother, who is a herder. One day, as the teacher came to our house, she spoke to my mother about enrolling me in the center. On further conversation, my mother came to know that it is the old center, which has started again. She also told her about other girls attending the school, which made my mother happy and willing to send me there, but my father did not agree.

The teacher's repeated efforts to connect with my mother and gradually with my father, when he was in proper senses, culminated into my joining the center in December 2013. I continued accompanying my brother for work because of the convenient school time, starting at 12:00 noon. I am happy with my new life as it has come with a lot of learning and new experiences. I am learning the English alphabet and can read small words in Hindi.

On speaking to her teacher, she shared that she is a sincere girl, who has started with her education at the center. She has been at the school for more than a year and has been steady with her learning.