Gurugram: Simran wants to join the Indian army after finishing her studies, Shivani wants to become a teacher. Krishana and Abhay haven’t decided yet, but they “really want to do something with a living”. However, they are all sure that there is a profession that they will definitely consider or fall back on if given the chance. And that’s photography.
These schoolchildren were part of two groups of students from the Shiksha Education Center in Jharsa near Gurugram and Saksham Bal Vikas Sanstha who participated in a special workshop, “The Art of Storytelling”, where they learned about mobile photography. by famous photographer Aditya Arya.
The workshops organized by the Museo Camera de Gurugram, a museum founded by Arya and dedicated to the history and art of photography, were specially organized in collaboration with Shiksha and Saksham, charities committed to providing academic education. and professional to disadvantaged children.
Each workshop had 15 students and the children attended 12 lessons – every Saturday – for about three months.
The best images clicked by 30 children from the first two groups are now presented, along with a collage of their own photos, during an exhibition at the museum of the one-of-a-kind camera that celebrates the evolution of photography – from the start. 19th century pinhole cameras.
The art of ’empowering’ storytelling
As pandemic-stricken India began to unlock last year, these children found themselves staring at the country from new eyes, through the lenses of a phone camera.
The children, each armed with an iPhone 12, took to the streets of Chakkarpur, Banjara Basti and other neighborhoods around Gurugram to film what caught their attention, with a team of supervisors from their school and Museo Camera. accompanying them.
“The kids come in the morning for a briefing, then come out to shoot and once back there is a critical session,” Arya explained.
These children had used smartphones before, thanks to the pandemic that moved studying online, but use of the phone’s camera was limited to submitting “class assignments and projects.”
They were asked what they had learned in the workshop, and the first thing the children said was “focus”.
“We would find it difficult to click on portraits, but now we know how to focus on a subject,” said Aurangzeb, a student at Shiksha School.
Abhay no longer “cuts off his head” when clicking on a photo and his hands are now more stable when holding the camera phone.
So how did they choose the “subjects” for their photos?
“I found his posture, the tattoos and the enthusiasm in his eyes endearing,” Krishana said, pointing to the photo of a ‘Banjara’ woman he had taken. He also clicked on a shoemaker at a local market, and said it was his smiley face while shining someone’s shoes that had moved him.
For Simran, it was an “empowering” experience as she got to talk to many strangers and learn more about their lives.
“When I have a camera in my hand, I’m not afraid,” said Aditya Arya, quoting famous photographer Alfred Eisenstaedt, to summarize the results of the initiative, recounting how the experience brought down barriers for these children in rural areas.
“Their parents are daily bets. This allowed them to better understand their own communities. A camera in their hands gives them confidence… they could (now) approach anyone with a phone and say “Bhaisahab main aap se baat karna chahta hoon (Sir, I want to talk to you)”, a said Arya, calling it mission accomplished.
He also said that the selection process takes a few weeks as they first have to assess the children’s interest in registering for the workshop.
All iPhone 12s used by children were donated to Museo Camera by Apple for the program.
“It was surreal”
A small event was held at the museum on Saturday to celebrate the success of budding photographers.
Udai Malhotra, administrator of the Shiksha Education Center who would accompany the children on each of their photographic trips, said the initiative came at the right time because the children had a lot of pent-up energy after the lockdown and they could channel it. creatively.
“Imagine these kids having an iPhone 12…, using it, being with professional photographers, listening to them in the studios. It was really surreal… ”said Manisha from Saksham. She said it all sounded amazing at first, and there were questions about what would be achieved through it. But, she added, “We don’t really have to teach to learn. We have to teach children to learn for themselves.
Museo Camera, a non-profit museum, has over 18,000 square feet of space dedicated to the display of Arya’s collection of over 2,500 cameras and other photographic equipment dating back to the 1850s.
When asked what he thinks about replacing phones with the proper cameras, Arya said it was a truth he had accepted. Professionals may still need the right cameras, but for others, a good phone camera is all they need, he said.
“They don’t need to learn the grammar of photography … the aperture, shutters and other technical details,” said Arya, showing some of her Ladakh executives, also as part of the exhibition. , and explained how easily he captured the picturesque lunar landscapes with an iPhone 13 Pro Max.
“After carrying dozens of lenses and heavy equipment on my travels, I feel liberated thanks to the new avatar of technology…”