Inspired by the work that Zana Briski did in the red light district of Calcutta, well documented in the Oscar Winning documentary film - Born into Brothels, I am encouraged to work with children living in the Slum areas of Bombay. The interest of working with community stemmed from a Lab contacted by Geetanjali Sachdev and other visiting artists called “Fear and Gender in Public Spaces.”
Working with Slum children through an alternative form of learning and experience in order to help them document, express and share what they see and find in the space that they live in.
Through a variety of pre-determined workshops and exercises, the aim is to get them excited about the medium and make it a part of their daily processes.
Besides photography, a sense of space and an understanding of what society and our surroundings mean to us will also be explored through interventions and exercises in their locality. For these to be open ended other mediums can be incorporated as well including games, drawing, mapping, audio and story telling.
why was photography the starting point?
For one, I love photography and can connect to it. I have not only been extremely keen to involve my interest in photography as a key element in my Diploma Project, but also because it could work as a supplement to the minimal education these kids receive. I believe, teaching through an art- form can tap into a different side of young kids today.
That being said, the computer will play an important role in their learning. Teaching them to use the internet and seeing what is it, that they are curious about once they know what the internet can do.
The learning process will be two-way. We will be able to understand and document how these children interpret what they see around them and how they express this in the mediums mentioned above. This will obviously be aided by creating topics for each class conducted so as to break down the different aspects of what is being explored - such as - the physical slum, primary interactions the children have in the slum with their family and friends, secondary interactions with neighbors, schools and employers (If they are employed).
The children in turn will learn basic photography and also, be taught on how to share their thoughts and images. And this, is what differentiates “Kids with Cameras” from this project.
The children, will be taught how to use the internet to share their work. Through a simple Flickr profile or a blog which can be updated from time to time during the course of the workshops that are being conducted. A new age Internet based company in Mumbai, as part of its many social initiatives, would like to assist this project by helping develop the training materials, resources and methodologies required to empower the children to use the internet and share the photographs that they take through services. The simple thought behind this is to eliminate the mediator - Us. They can directly communicate with others through these mediums. This is not to say that we assume they want to communicate, but hopefully through the course of these exercises they will be motivated to share their work with the people who want to see it. (This part of the project is dependent on the availability of sponsorship and space for computers and internet. It also depends on how responsive the children are and whether this is necessary at all - the need or relevance can only be confirmed and identified once I start work in the community)
The power of Art is very strong, and I hope to make a difference by way of exposing these children to a different way of looking at things and life. They are the future of the community and they are what matters most to bring about change in the future years to come. Once the workshop has started I hope to identify certain areas wherein we together can bring about change in their community through pedagogy, advocacy or intervention. To define this right now, would be presumtious and keeping it open ended would give me the opportunity to tap into the identified area with a suitable activity.
At the end of the workshops, it would be ideal, to give these children an opportunity to have fun with what they have learned. This can be decided only once the workshops start and I am able to understand what they would term as “fun”.
It is too soon to say what the tangible result of this project could be. For now, I want to focus on creating a facilitation manual that will enable the reader to carry out such workshops with a bit of ease. It will include, the entire model, research and collected data - depending on relevance and actual functionality of the book.
I think at this point it is important for me to articulate the fact that process in this project, is more important that the outcome. Thinking of applying an economic model, defeats the purpose of what I hope to do with the children. The factors that determine each and every workshop will be based not on, if they can earn a living from it, but if they can grow from it. And it will be unfair to undermine the growth and careless to assume the growth will stop immediately with the end of the workshops. Yes, It will be my responsibility to make sure, that the children are excited by themselves, to learn more. As expressed by Sugata Mitra - and his research, that kids do teach themselves. They can teach themselves a new language if it means it will help them understand what they are interested in learning. The Hole in the Wall project is a great example of what Kids can teach each other given the right opportunity. And if within this process, there stems an opportunity, for a model to be placed, I will do so.
I believe, this project will evolve as the findings from each week, of learning, can lead to newer ideas and workshops in the next. This is what made me enthusiastic most about this project - the fact that it could take a whole new direction, depending on content generated- I would like to, for now, concentrate more on a plan for what the workshops will consist of and how this needs to be structured.
For this, I will be visiting “The Shelter” which is a project currently being handled by URBZ, and the Acorn foundation in Dharavi.
This project, will of course, not be possible without an NGO - on ground contact. I have met with Yuva Prathishtan ( http://www.yuva-india.org/ ). They currently have a classroom in two slum areas of Mumbai - at Mahalaxmi and near CST Station. They have given me full access to these classrooms and will also be involved in helping to identify which children would be interested in being part of these workshops. Hence, what I am proposing could be part of the various activities they have been conducting.
Additional resources are :
Magazines showcasing documentary photography
Books on Photography
Blogs and Websites on Photography such as:
Books on community, society and psychology
Cameras (Which I’m going to work on procuring, through sponsorship or donations)
To construct and structure workshops for children
Bring together the knowledge and resources of different organizations and ngo’s to support a new and experimental format of teaching children
To learn more about the slum areas of Bombay and the different intervention opportunities present for designers who want to give back to the community
To test the adaptability of different mediums of documentation relevant to the project
To understand the group of children and the community from which they come
To understand more about definition of community through a child’s perspective
To take the data collected during the course of the workshops and make it accessible through successful visual communication
To explore innovative display and dissemination of the work
To question the role of design itself in such a project