Sunday, 11 October 2009

July 23, 2009: (Session 3)

The participants were armed with ideas buzzing around them, which they had hoped to translate into photographs sooner or later. Most of the them wanted to documents the lives of their family members, but then there were others too who wanted to go beyond the walls of their homes and freeze the outside world in their camera.

Rubina said that she had noticed a sweeper near her house who was doing his job with dedication. “It was pouring heavily and yet that man did not allow the rain to come in the way of his job. He could have not done it, but I wanted to capture his sheer commitment to his job.”

Saira said that her children would be happy when the school would be shut during a heavy downpour, and they would end up at home frolicking about. She said that she would love to take their photographs when they are engrossed in their own games. “Then there are a few women in Chor bazaar who have to struggle a lot to put up their wares and stalls. I had once enquired with them and they had told me that they had to pay hafta to cops to let them do their business. Then there are those scores of women who always are running to catch the train on time to get back home. I would like to photograph these two sets of women – both of whom are toiling in their own individual ways.”

Gazala said that during the week, she had been witness to a small scale riot between the Hindus and the Muslims in her area at Sewri, which went on till 4 am. She had checked on the TV news channels, but there was no report or even a mention about it. 'In the morning, the entire area was strewn with the debris of the riot – glass pieces from bottles, stones, shoes. Later we learnt that 4 Hindus and 4 Muslims were arrested, who were released on bail. But we all feared that the issue could have blown out of proportion. I wanted to shoot that riot in whatever possible way I could. But other than that, I enjoy seeing the women fighting in trains and that would be quite interesting to document!” she said, which was applauded by everyone.

While Yasmin had decided to take photographs of women who feed their children on the trains, Nilofer too wanted to take photographs of women who fought in the train due to petty things like being hit accidentally by an umbrella!

On her way from her home to the railway station, Tabassum had to cross a slum area where the people lived under tarpaulin sheets and cooked food on small stoves. “The children from the slums play and bathe in the mud, and there is no remorse or sadness on their faces, whatsoever. Children are the same everywhere; they are concerned only with their games. That is what I would like my photographs to be about.”

Raziya said that she was brimming with ideas which she would love to develop them as photo stories. “I like to see my daughter waking up early and getting ready for college. She has a fixed morning schedule and that is what I would like to capture on my camera. We also have a kid in our neighbourhood who is so naughty that his mother often ties him up. He is always up to some antics which would be fun to take photographs of. Then there is a police chowkie near my house which is supposed to be a watchdog for our area. But whenever I go past it, I always see cops sipping onto tea or reading newspapers and having a very relaxed attitude. There is also a bhajiyawala, a nimbu paani vendor and fruit vendor who are always inundated with crowds. Many people in my area are able to eat breakfast, thanks to the bhajiyawala who is very swift in his cooking. Then there is also a wholesale market where imitation jewellery is sold – these are some ideas for me to document through my camera, along with the flooding of slums which is a perennial feature of Mumbai.”

Shabeena said that she would like to document the way female vegetable vendors go about doing their work daily, while Raheema said that she would want to feature a woman who would continue to sit at her makeshift stall under a huge umbrella, even during a downpour.

Paigumberi said that while standing on the Bandra skywalk, she had often seen people get in and out of trains hurriedly, and she would often wonder, where do so many people come from? “The people look like ants from a great height above and I would like to feature that view in my photographs. Additionally, I would also like to photograph the dedication to God which is seen among Muslim men during the time of namaaz, when they would pray, no matter if it even rains.”

Paigumberi went on to explain how her wearing a burqa gets her to be the centre of attraction whenever there is a threat to the city. “The other day I was travelling to VT station and there was a rumour about a bomb scare. Suddenly I could sense many eyes looking suspiciously at me, and that made me feel very awkward. On another occasion, Bal Thackeray's rally was proceeding near guru Nanak Hospital in Bandra and I was the only woman there who was dressed in a burqa. I could feel that some heads were turning around for a better view of me. At the same time it was also raining heavily and I just wanted to get home as soon as possible. But I had to take a detour on my route because I had realised that God forbid, if there was a blast at that moment, I would have been devoured by the crowd – simply because I am a Muslim who was wearing a burqa that day,” she narrated.

Paigumberi further added that it was indeed a matter of shame that people are constantly in a jealous mode, and are always trying to pull down those who seem to be doing well in their lives. “Why is it that people's focus are on unnecessary issues, whereas those issues which need attention are sidelined? I am fed up of the discrimination between men and women. I am fed up with the bad roads that we have in our city, and the government chooses to not do anything about it. Why are our opinions not accounted when decisions are being made?” she asked with indignation.

Changing the mood of the workshop was Heena, who suggested that she likes the entire process of getting her daughter ready for school, and that was what she would like to take photographs of. “I feel pity for the street urchins who fall asleep on the roads and can do nothing when it starts pouring – they continue to be fast asleep because there is no way out for them. I would like to take their photographs and show it to the world the sad state in which these children are living.” Heena also narrated an incident when, during a rally, someone spread a rumour about a bomb being found. “We all were scared; we cannot afford to take rumours lightly these days. Hence me and my friend began to run, but we enjoyed that sudden sprint,” she said with her trademark laughter.

Fatima said that her sister, who was supporting the family financially in a major way, was very committed to her job. “Even if it is pouring outside heavily, my sister will still wake up at 6 am and get ready to go to work. I admire her strength and determination to support our family and keep us together. Sometimes, there is no electricity in Mumbra early in the morning, and yet, under the candle light, she manages to get ready and leave the house for the day. After her, my bhabhi wakes up to cook for the entire family's breakfast and tiffin. Then my brothers would wake up slowly, one by one. I would thus like to track the morning hours in my house since I am very close to my family,” she explained.

Farhat said that the roads in Mumbra are often blocked due to waterlogging during the rains. “It is during such a time that the only BMC hospital in Mumbra has to work under candle light! It is a very sad state but this is exactly why I want to document this situation on my camera,” she said.

Badrunissa had a tale about her children, which she would want to take photographs of. “My elder daughter attempts to teach my son but they almost always end up fighting. But there is still love between them. So I would like to take their photographs when they are studying, or at least trying to do so. I also work in a dispensary as a compounder where a poor boy often comes, wearing a girl's frock. He looks very cute in that dress and he is always busy playing in the mud. He never misses a chance to greet me. I would like to take his photographs too,” she said.

With the participants done with their bit of talking, Sudharak explained that the ideas were diverse and fascinating, yet it was essential that the participants work within the already set restrictions of geography and availability of their subject. “You also need to figure out your own comfort zones. Your home and neighbourhood are the places where you are most comfortable, and you first photographs should come in from there itself,” he said.

Ravi suggested that once they would get the cameras in their hands, the participants could take photographs of each other till they could be comfortable with the camera. “There is always a great deal of excitement when you get the camera in your hand for the first time. But you should be able to respect that instrument and not misuse it. You need to concentrate on what you are going to shoot,” he explained.

After a tea break, it was time for the participants to actually get their hands on Sudharak's camera to understand the nuances of focussing on the subject and composing a photograph such that only the essentials elements would be in the frame. “You have to play with light so that you can get very different results each time you subject is in a different position,” said Ravi.

The participants paired among themselves and a tripod was set up in the small room which had the window through which enough light was coming in, and a bright yellow wall which was the perfect backdrop. Sudharak explained how to focus on their partner and take a shot of her, and he had showed them the ways to focus and zoom in or out, as needed. One by one, each of the participants posed and then shot the photographs too. Photographs were taken by Sudharak also so that it would help him to explain the difference between the way in which the participants and he shot the photographs. It was a time for fun for the participants as each of them posed, smiled and giggled for the camera.

The camera was then unmounted from the tripod so that the participants could take at least 3 shots each. They were extremely careful with handling the expensive D3 cameras, and had consciously wound its strap around their neck. They roamed around the office, often asking anyone to pose for them in whatever way they wanted, but with hesitation.

With just about half an hour left for the workshop session to end, the photographs were downloaded so that feedback could be given on them. Sudharak showed them where they have faltered – most of the participants had included too much space within their frame and had allowed for other foreign bodies to pollute the composition. Sudharak then told them that as a photographer, it was their individual duty to ensure that nobody was obstructing in their way of taking a good shot and that they should have used the zoom option in a better way. “Most of the photographs here convey that they were taken in a hurried manner. You need to be patient and thoughtful while taking the photographs. Also, most of you have not focussed the camera well. Additionally, you should have no hesitation in moving around to take the photograph of a single subject from many different angles, until you are able to get a good photograph which is well lit. Each of you need to practise to look longer though the lens so that you get the focus right,” he explained.

The session had drawn to an end and Sudharak assigned the participants with a project for the next week: to come prepared with better and doable photo stories. He insisted that they look around more, within their own life and family and neighbourhood, and thus pick cues of what they would like to show to the world. As the participants began to wear their burqa to make their journey back home, the smiles on each of their faces was unmistakable – they were excited about having taken their first shots as photography students, and their confidence levels had evidently surged.

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