Sunday, December 29, 2013

Girl + Student, Nirvanavan Foundation, Slum, Alwar, Rajasthan, November, 2013

While in Rajasthan I was fortunate enough to once again visit the good works of Nirvanavan Foundation through my dear friend, Nirvana Bodhisattva. We began with a school located in one of the many slums of Alwar, a school visited four years ago as well.

The classroom has since been moved to a beautifully decorated building, and now classes are being held indoor as well as outside next to the small temple. Two teachers are responsible for this small school, and their enthusiasm is consistent with the team on a whole, a testament to the leadership as well as to the volunteers working daily to improve the lives of their comrades.

I remember this little girl from many years ago, as she sat for her portrait on the ledge of that first school. She was so tiny then, but her eyes have always had this incredible presence in front of the lens. This morning we sat down for some informal portraits in the classroom, with light coming into the room from a window to her left. She was barely able to hide her excitement, her happiness. This is what drives the work, this is the purpose behind the images.

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Girl + Refugee, Sectarian Violence, Uttar Pradesh, India, December 1, 2013

In the midst difficulty this young girl holds her head up high and does so for a complete stranger. The last part never ceases to amaze me every single time we enter a community for the first time. This was especially true in the refugee camps of Uttar Pradesh, where almost 100,000 people lived in 25 camps scattered along the countryside.

We would just step out of the car, set up the tripod as instructed and select as to whom we would photograph first. In the mornings we would photograph the girls first, then the boys. In the afternoon it was the opposite, allowing the most perfect light to be used for the girls.

So it was for six days in the camps, and girls who had never seen a man from outside of India in this area walked up to the camera and offered themselves without hesitation. Perhaps this was the bottle into which they were placing their messages, perhaps it was just an escape from the tortuous, daily routine of survival… I will never know but am deeply honored to have been the recipient of their courage.
Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Boy + Student, Kanjar Community, Nirvanavan Foundation, Alwar, Rajasthan, India, November, 2013

I remember a conversation with Nirvana years ago as the men from these villages approached to have their portraits made. Photographing the girls was an easy task, for they in my mind were the victims of the profession in these communities, the trade of sex. The unease I felt in photographing the boys and men was put aside as Nirvana explained his thoughts to me: that we need to provide education to both the girls and boys, for they are both victims of this practice.

In this portrait stands one boy from this community, in front of the school administered by Nirvanavan Foundation. Artwork from the students is hung behind him, and he shines in front of the camera. My hope is that this young boy holds the future for the men in these communities, and that the thought of selling their daughters, sisters and nieces to strangers will fade away within his generation.

One may find more information through my website below, and a link to the foundation as well as a gallery of images for sale. Through the purchase of an image these schools can be funded, with 100% of the sale going to the foundation.

Note: This image was made with a Sony RX100M3.

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Girl + Refugee, Uttar Pradesh, India, December 1, 2013

Today was spent driving past frenzied shoppers looking for that last minute item for their loved ones. Walking from one aisle to another, my eyes glazed over as all of the products suddenly looked the same. My mind was unable to help itself, and felt a bit disconnected from the scene, as an out of body experience is often described.

My thoughts wandered to this little girl, living in a refugee camp hundreds of miles away from her devastated village. She was almost passed up as the organizers of our session presented the children to us for photography. Perhaps they thought we wanted something else, when all we wanted was the truth.

This little girl walked up to her spot in front of the lens and stared back at the camera without hesitation. She looked right at the camera, never looking to her friends for assistance. She was little more than two or three years old perhaps, but was able to hold her ground effortlessly. We exposed four or so frames and then she walked away.

Her hair was as course as steel wool, while her face was covered with various layers of dirt and dust, giving her hues ranging from red to yellow to brown.

What has she seen in her young life? What was going through her mind at this very moment?

I will never know, but am obliged to share her image with the larger public. My hope is that others will be affected by her expression and perhaps move forward in the relations between the various factions, rather than allowing fissures to progress to fractures.
Halim Ina Photography

Friday, December 20, 2013

Dancer + Statues, Pan American Stadium, Havana, Cuba, August 17, 2013

We picked another pair of statues for this year's session at the Pan American Stadium just outside of the capital. My last morning on the island was spent with her, as was the case last year. On both occasions the sun came up without obstruction and we had all morning to ourselves. 

She is without equal in my work, and gives completely of herself every single time. The sound of the shutter is her cue to move to another position, always maintaining her concentration while atthe same time pursuing a line of creativity rarely seen in others. She is barely a teenager, and yet performs for over an hour without rest and without the need for the company of others.

This past year on the island was a difficult one for a few reasons, and she wondered as to my thoughts regarding this collaboration. My answer was quite simple: With whom have I worked the most this year, and last year? For whom have the most negatives been exposed over the past two years?

She knew the answers, smiled and listened in silence, while a sense of calm came over her. She is reason enough for my visits to the island, in this she has confidence.
Halim Ina Photography

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Girl + Student, Humana People to People India, Near Virat Nagar, Rajasthan, India, November 3, 2013

She is the third daughter of a friend living just outside of Virat Nagar, Rajasthan. Her mother allows her home to be used as a meeting place for the micro-finance chapter in her village.Humana People to People India works with women in her village to supply small loans, resulting in many women being able to increase their families' incomes while increasing a sense of independence as well.

This image was made on our second day, just twelve or so hours after we met the previous evening. We were allowed to come back and make better portraits, since our first session was barely a session due to the setting sun. We arrived before the sun as visible, were served wonderful tea and then welcomed to the roof of the house for an incredible session.

All three sisters were ready and allowed me an entire hour for their portraits. We played with headscarves, expressions and body positions with complete freedom. The joy with which these beautiful spirits approached the photography was exhilarating, and makes me look forward to the film images even more so.
Halim Ina Photography

Girl + Ragpicker, Humana People to People India, Gurgaon, India, November 22, 2013

Once again a young girl helping her family make a living while sorting through trash is presented here. In collaboration withHumana People to People India these images were made, near the high-rises of Gurgaon, 'the most prosperous city in India based on ownership of consumer durables.' A description of this city is included 

The cruelty of this contrast is visible to all those visiting the area. Fancy shopping areas stand next to dilapidated neighborhoods, and small children constantly walk between cars with balloons in their hands for sale. Enormous signs highlighting the names of countless multi-national corporations sit atop gleaming buildings, while people sleep beneath a newly constructed freeway cutting through the city.

This young girl lives in between piles of garbage, and her hands testify to the hardness of the life lived. With the guidance of the foundation and two corporations, Dell and Nokia, two centers and a few satellites provide a quality education to these very children, augmented by wonderful computer rooms as well. The hope is that these centers can be a source of opportunity for this population, and that the sharp blade of cruelty most visible can be blunted more so.

According to Wikipedia:

'Gurgaon is a city situated in the National Capital Region near the Indian capital New Delhi in the state of Haryana. Located 32 km south-west of New Delhi, Gurgaon has a population of 876,824. Witnessing rapid urbanization, Gurgaon has become the city with the third highest per capita income in India, even though the city grapples with the problem of lack of proper infrastructure and utilities, frequent power outages and rising crime. As of 2013, about 250 Fortune 500 companies have a base in Gurgaon.'
Halim Ina Photography

Girl + Refugee, Sectarian Violence, Uttar Pradesh, India, November, 2013

On an isolated field next to our host's village she lives with her family. This land has been signed over to the villagers permanently so as to allow them to build more sturdy homes. During our visit alone a half dozen homes were constructed, and a gravel road was laid by the village for this community.

We arrived early in the morning after a good night's rest, and were greeted by an incredible group of people. They had lost so much most recently yet were more than willing to share their stories with us, allowed us to photograph their children. Only under such circumstances were we able to begin our photography with the girls, and we had the cooperation of more than a few men as they proceeded to organize the girls for us.

One man acted as our stylist, and took care to prepare each girl for her portrait. Two other men made sure that all other men were placed at a distance so as to allow the girls to be more comfortable in front of the camera. The background was so serene, almost making me forget the circumstances under which these girls lived.

We are now seeking the proper news agencies to which this work can be presented, as well as an interview video highlighting twenty or so stories from the time of the violence. Any thoughts on this matter would be most appreciated.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Girl + Ragpicker, Humana People to People India, Gurgaon, Haryana, India, November 22, 2013

The common term used to describe her profession is 'ragpicker,' although she is anything but common in my eyes. Her community lives in Gurgaon but originates from West Bengal. They live in a shantytown just a few minutes away from some of the richest communities of India. The children survive day to day by collecting and then sorting to perfection the garbage nearby.

When one drives on the roads to her location, the eyes are inundated with the propaganda on huge billboards, commercials using the language of colonialism and the familiar vision of a futuristic, utopian society. The names of the colonies being built just adjacent to her home would make Orson Welles turn incessantly in his grave, yet they are placed above her little frame for all to see.

The contrasts are incredibly cruel, yet this is her reality. Humana People to People India operates an Academy for Working Children in collaboration with Dell and Nokia. The facilities are wonderfully clean and well equipped, providing a chance at an education otherwise unavailable to her and her friends.
Halim Ina Photography

Friday, December 13, 2013

Claudia, Pan American Stadium, La Habana, Cuba, August 16, 2013

...and here Claudia is from this past July, impossibly more beautiful and deeply motivated to continue with this project. Our time together this past summer was much more limited, yet we talked more than at any time in the past. On our last afternoon together her mother and my friend sat by the car and allowed us to chat a bit while waiting for the sun.

Her usually shy demeanor gave way to a new confidence as she shared with me her happiness with the work, her desire to produce a book of her teenage years and her hope that others from around the world will learn about her story.

I plan to pursue all of the above with her in 2014 and cannot wait to see what she has in store for my camera in seven months. If this portrait is a hint of what is to come, the excitement is already too much.
Halim Ina Photography

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Girl + Refugee, Uttar Pradesh, India, November, 2013

Next to our host's village sits a small community of refugees from the recent conflicts in Uttar Pradesh, India. The land has been provided to them by our host, temporarily and soon to be permanent.

We arrived early in the morning and immediately set up the camera next to this beautiful pond. The girls were given the opportunity to go first and without much hesitation they did so, in spite of the dozens of men gathered to watch. We did our best to remove anyone from the girls' direct line of view, nonetheless onlookers came by the dozens as usual.

The homes constructed at this time are made of simple wooden structures and plastic sheets. Just in the time we were there four such structures were put up right behind this pond alone. The children of the camp live a precarious life, on the outskirts of the village, and do their best to help their parents with the day to day.

Our hosts for example have provided their home as a place for one family to sell vegetables, and one girl arrives early every morning to do so. She sweeps the floor from the previous day's activity and sets up her temporary stand so neatly. The villagers do their best to buy from her in order to support the family. This was all done without placing too much attention on the self, an incredible set of circumstances to witness.
Halim Ina Photography

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Four Students + New School, Humana People to People India, Kedha Village, Rajasthan, India, December 4, 2013

Living in a village in Rajasthan, this young girl now has the opportunity to attend classes offered by Humana People to People India. The proceeds from the benefits held this summer at Artistic Muse Gallery and the Cleveland Print Room have resulted in the opening of seven schools for girls in Haryana and Rajasthan. We thought four schools, Humana People to People India were more than generous and offered more for the funds raised. So now she has a chance to sit next to her sisters and catch up to those already in school.

Like the other girls in this post, she also lives in the same village named Kedha. The majority of villagers are farmers and the days are spent ensuring the health of the crops and sustenance for the children.

She used to attend classes three years ago and has been photographed by me several times over a few years. Her teacher is also her cousin, and she has returned to the school with an eagerness than would make teachers stateside deeply satisfied. She is a little older than the other students but this means very little to her. I am both proud and humbled by her strength, and am quite content with the chances provided me for her portrait this year.

The portrait below was made this past Wednesday, on my last day of photography. As a matter of fact, her portrait was the last of the trip. A higher speed film was used (T-Max 400) as the sun was low, and the images are very much anticipated as her eyes gleamed along with her smile with the setting sun. She inspires me.

These two students also look forward to their first day of class tomorrow. They stand on the roof of their teacher's home, which is actually their classroom now. It is both private and extremely beautiful, with the kitchen at their feet. There is little noise outside of the birds chirping in the trees surrounding the rooftop.

This school closed in 2010 but these students were never forgotten in my work. The good leaders at Humana People to People India listened to my request to reopen the schools in the area and acted on it even though doing so involved a list of complications. The people of the village, rather than having a bitter taste in their collective mouth due to the closing, greeted us with open arms. This reaction was a breath of fresh air for me as well as the foundation, and more than twenty girls were gathered for classes in less than one week. The previous teacher quit her post in the local private school and accepted this position gladly, and has always had my deepest admiration.

I wish them nothing but the best and look forward to seeing the progress made on my next visit.
Halim Ina Photography

Friday, December 6, 2013

Girl + Refugee, Uttar Pradesh, India, December 1, 2013

On this morning we visited a small camp located near Kairana, Uttar Pradesh. An interesting description of this place is included below, and is in line with my observations of the area. There is something quite peaceful, serene regarding the landscape… yet the places of our visits were reminders that even such serenity can be disturbed by the hand of Man.

Most recently violence has erupted in Uttar Pradesh, forcing this young girl and her community to find shelter elsewhere. The villagers in this region have given their land to the refugees, have allowed them to build temporary structures and have also permanently signed over certain pieces of land over to the families for permanent homes.

Government action is nonexistent, but good people from all over the country are doing their best to ease the suffering and pain. Toilets have been built, quilts have been provided, building materials have been shared and most importantly a warm welcome has been extended.

I hope that such tensions ease and that this young girl can return to her home one day.

According to Wikipedia:

During the Medieval period, Mughal Emperor Jahangir visited this place and has given a vibrant description in his autobiography, Tuzuk-e-jahangiri.
The Emperor said, "On Sunday, the 16th, I marched from Delhi, and on Friday, the 21st, halted in the pargana of Kairana. This pargana is the native place of Muqarrab Khan. Its climate is equable and its soil good. Muqarrab made buildings and gardens there. As I had often heard praise of his garden, I wished much to see it. On Saturday, the 22nd, I and my ladies were much pleased in going around it. Truly, it is a very fine and enjoyable garden. Within a masonry (pukhta, pucca) wall, flowerbeds have been laid out to the extent of 140 bighas. In the middle of the garden, he has constructed a pond, in length 220 yards, and in breadth 200 yards. In the middle of the pond is a miih-tiib terrace (for use in moonlight) 22 yards square. There is no kind of tree belonging to a warm or cold climate that is not to be found in it. Of fruit-bearing trees belonging to Persia, I saw green pistachio trees and cypresses of graceful form, such as I have never seen before. I ordered the cypresses to be counted, and they came to 300. All round the pond, suitable buildings have been begun and are in progress."
Halim Ina Photography