DPF volunteer Anurag Banerjee spends time with the young adults from the Aarohan Foundation.
It was a typically sultry mid-August day in Delhi. Huddled in a small room in Malviya Nagar were rows of desks and a bunch of enthusiastic teenagers from a nearby low-income settlement. Laptops ready for viewing and reviewing photos were placed on the first desk. Each desk was provided with a camera to fidget and play around with.
Core team member, Vidura Jang Bahadur had been waiting when DPF team member Anshika Varma and I arrived. The students greeted us with warmth, and a few anecdotes later the class was on its way. The kids assembled belonged to various Delhi based NGOs, one of them being Aarohan Foundation, that works towards providing education to underprivileged children. It was founded by Rani Patel in 2005. The afternoon’s session was a continuation of a series of workshops that was to introduce the kids to a possible career in photography.
“The objective of these workshops was to move beyond just the snapshot and talk about narratives and what goes into the process of making an image,” said Anshika. For this, a number of sessions between June to September this year with experienced photographers have been conducted to give the students a clear perspective towards photo making. Sessions were conducted twice a week and covered a variety of topics. Enoch taught the basics of photography, Mansi Thapliyal and Mustafa Quraishi shared their experiences from the field, with the guidance of Anshika and Vidura.
That mid-August day, as observed by me was dedicated to shooting outdoors. The group of around 20 students was divided into two, with Anshika and Vidura taking charge of one each. The photography novices were to head into a nearby slum in search of stories, a couple of students belonged to this settlement. With photography now accessible to these young adults, they were now moving into and acknowledging their own communities. “For the first time, they have an opportunity to tell their stories,” shared Anshika.
Many a times, the kids were faced with people who objected to them shooting there, even raising a hue and cry. Not to be discouraged, the boys and girls tried to explain what they were doing. Photography has had a lasting impression on many of their lives. A few have already ventured into the professional world of photography. In his early twenties, Srikanth Singh has got a job as a photojournalist. He was recently put in touch with Neeraj Priyadarshi, the national photo editor of the Indian Express for freelance work. Wahid Baksh, also in his early twenties, is now training with Mustafa and Mansi Midha and learning photo studio set-ups.
Narrating an incident where the students had to breakdown a Steve McCurry photograph, Anshika told me what the takeback for her (and the other photographers) had been through this entire experience. The photograph was that of two kids playing in front of a waterfall and the students had to think about what could have gone into the making of the photograph. This led to a very animated discussion, giving rise to some beautiful interpretations. “[Through this exercise] I learnt how uninhibited the kids can be,” concluded Anshika.
Photographs made by the Aarohan students will be on display as part of the exhibitions line-up at this edition of the Delhi Photo Festival starting on October 30 at the IGNCA, Delhi.