I recently spent 12 days at Manav Sadhna, an NGO in Ahmedabad, Gujurat. The organization is built upon a community of people devoted to helping one another. In my time there I witnessed an uncountable number of small gestures that seem to carry forward and blossom into larger ideas.
Before arriving, I had an idea to organize a short photography workshop for kids of the local community in order to give them a voice and see through their ‘lens’. I wasn’t sure of how it would come together or who might be interested in participating, but I was told not to worry as 'it will all come together if the intention is there’.
With the suggestion of another volunteer, I visited a small street school nearby the Gandhi Ashram named Patangyu (“butterfly”). About 20 kids of varying ages come to the street school 5-6 days a week to learn about values, language, religion and many other subjects. Upon our arrival, the kids greeted us by applying tikka to our foreheads and leading us in Prathana (prayer). I mentioned the possibility of doing the workshop, and they were very excited! Now, I just needed some cameras.
I had intended to find some disposable cameras locally, but after a couple of days I realized they were practically extinct in Ahmedabad. As I began to lose hope, a new friend, Neil Patel, offered an incredible gesture and allowed me to borrow some cell phone cameras for the workshop! The workshop was on!! (Fittingly, Neil is helping run a startup in Ahmedabad focused on voice communication called Awaaz.De or “give voice”).
The kids were extremely enthusiastic to have the opportunity to use the cameras. I showed them some sample images and soon handed out 6 of the cell phone cameras. I asked them to limit the amount of photos they took in an effort to have them think about why they were taking a particular image (a process which sometimes gets lost with digital photography). I also suggested that they also choose themes on which they would focus their images, such as color, family, people, work, etc.
I left that evening excited, but unsure if these 12-16 year old kids would struggle to operate the cameras or have difficulty deciding what to shoot. However, when I returned the next day and uploaded the images….I was completely blown away! The images they captured communicated their world with natural ability and beauty!
The kids proceeded to shoot for two more days, and each ended up with an amazing set of images. At the end of the week we printed some pictures from each theme and held a small exhibition at the Ashram.
I was and am truly amazed at the visual communications the photos show from life and religion to art and play. As I got to know the kids better, I realized that they had a hunger to share their experiences and this provided a medium to do just that. And to have some fun :)
I will be putting together a book (check back soon for a link to that!) highlighting some of the images with all proceeds going back to the community. Please reach out with any comments or thoughts - I will gladly share them with the kids.
I also want to thank the workshop participants for putting their soul into the workshop: Ravi, Sangita, Anita, Aarti D, Aarti S, Dhaval, Kunal, Kunjan, Heena, Anand and Haresh.
AND SPECIAL THANKS TO ALL THOSE WHO CONTRIBUTED TIME, IDEAS AND FUNDS TO HELP MAKE THE WORKSHOP POSSIBLE: Nimo, Neil, Dev, Rahulbhai, Shirishbhai, Jagatbhai, Jigneshbhai, Nehal, Nora, Steve, Jayana, Shivani, Bandana, Paritosh, Supna, Mala, Rajeev, Kamini, Shabnam and Tarun