Kamerakidz Chiraigaon took place in september 2014 at the Premjyoti Integrated School which takes care of more than 400 disabled and non-disabled children. Prem Jyoti means “Love of Light” and was founded 1996. The two and a half weeks I (Myriam Pechan) could live and work there signified teaching and learning. In the following, some impressions which I happily share with you:
All began very exciting and challenging – everthing was new, the wonderful excitement of doing things for the very first time: Being the first time in India, and not just as one Western tourist among loads of them, but coming on my own in a little village community where strangers are rarely seen. As it was my first time realizing a kamerakidz project, I was very curious about how it would be.
The primary and most essential challenge was about the communication. Most of the students (and in general, people around me) had (if at all) a very basic English knowledge, so that our common verbal language was soon exhausted. Therefore the level of motivation, curiosity and respectful kindness amongst the students was very high! To select the participants was therefore not easy: Unlike as I expected it was my task to choose the students. Having six well working digital cameras I decided to take 12 students from class 8, so that we could easily alternate the cameras, our main tool. We met everyday, mostly after the end of school. In the beginning I tried to introduce the most basic items and aspects of photography such as light, framing, colour, composition, different types of photographs (landscape, portraits, a photo serie or story), always working with the photography they – the kamerakidz- had taken… We looked carefully at their pictures, trying to describe what we saw, what exactly we liked about it. What do you see? was a question I often asked, because the clue to photography lies in the the skill of our eyes, our sight and doesn’t depend primary on the camera. So I tried to teach not just how to use the camera with its features but also to stress the importance of using our eyes, senses, sensibility.
Finding a common language
What made the project so rich and interesting was exactly this! I had to employ creative as well as simple, vivid ways of explaining. So a fascinating process of improvisation and image based communication started. I always used the occasion of our classes to introduce some English vocabulary (and not just photographic terms) and in return the students teached me joyfully a few words in Hindi. It was indeed touching and funny to see how we (mis)understood each other, developping a lot of mutual patience and imagination: with the help of gestures, chalk drawings on the black board, the photographs itself and -sometimes- a translating teacher… We were keen on learning from each other! Under “video” you will find a short cartoon “Starting into photography” I made as an attempt to explain visually… During the project three other interested students from class 8 joined, so finally there were 15 enthousiastic Kamerakidz…
At the end – as a final highlight – we all squeezed into the little yellow mini bus and went for a photo trip exploring the surroundings of Chiraigaon: the close banks of Ganga river, the so-called ghats (the access in form of a serie of stairs leading to the water). In Varanasi, famous for its around eighty ghats towards the holy river, we also stopped for visiting a tempel.