The Beginnings of the project:
In November 2012 Video Volunteers and the Magnum Foundation joined forces to set up a participatory photography project for Community Correspondents at Video Volunteers. To view all of the photo essays created by the CC’s, click here.
The genesis of the project was a meeting in 2011 between VV co-founder, Jessica Mayberry, and world-renowned Magnum photographer, and President of the Magnum Foundation, Susan Meiselas. Magnum is one the most well recognised photo agencies in operation, started in 1947 by Henri Cartier-Bresson, Robert Capa, David Seymour and George Roger. For its part, Video Volunteers is excited at how collaborations between professionals and citizens can shape journalism and the arts in the future. The project kicked off after Magnum Foundation was able to secure a grant from the Fledgling Fund.
VV selected 20 Community Correspondents, nearly all women, and Magnum picked photographers interested to work with them, which included Magnum Nominee, Olivia Arthur, and Magnum Foundation Fellow, Sohrab Hura. There were two workshops of four days each, one in November 2012 in Ranchi, Jharkhand, and one in March 2013 in Goa. Follow the links to read more from CC’s, Amit Topno and Reena Ramteke on their experiences from the workshop.
Workshop 1: Ranchi
The first workshop, titled ‘Storytelling through Photography’, focused on creating visually strong, contextualised images and building a narrative into picture stories. Our CCs are strong at activism but sometimes less skilled at visuals, and we knew photography was a great way for them to develop a better eye. Furthermore, this workshop was a chance for them to explore visual media through a new lens.
“I like taking photographs. I usually take photos at weddings and family functions, but this workshop has brought a new dimension to my work. I’ve learnt concepts like framing a shot, which will not only help me take better photographs, but also improve the quality of my videos”, said Reena Ramteke, one of the participants.
In between the first and second workshop, correspondents took photographs on pre-decided assignments, receiving feedback as they went along from the Olivia and Sohrab.
Workshop 2: Goa
At the start of the second workshop participants presented their work from the past three months and received further comments from the trainers. In some instances individuals had taken over 7,000 photos. Olivia and Sohrab had their work cut out as they tried to get the CCs to begin thinking about how an edited series of photographs might appear.
We sat with Olivia as she went through Saroj Paraste’s photographs of a disabled girl.“I chose to photograph a girl who doesn’t have hands,” said Saroj. “She had come to my village and I was touched when I heard about her. I wanted to tell her story so that it would be an inspiration to other people who have disabilities. Since the girl was at first not keen to be photographed, I spent a lot of time making her feel comfortable. In the end she grew very fond of me and was happy to be a part of the project”.
Despite being a skilled video maker, the process of spending such a long time with one subject and getting to know them was an entirely new experience for Saroj. But she excelled in the task, as noted by Olivia: “There were some portraits that were very intimate and showed the strong relationship she’d built with her subject. What was special about the story was the trust that this girl evidently had in Saroj.”
On the third day, correspondents began editing their work in small groups, focusing on trying to assemble a tight series of ten photographs. Olivia and Sohrab assisted them with this, before uploading the images to a blogging space. The final photo-stories cover a range of topics from alcohol abuse to superstition in India to the encroachment of the Dal Lake in Kashmir. All of these images as well as photographs of the workshop can be seen here.
The second workshop closed with a presentation to a group of journalists in Goa at the VV head office. This was a chance for our correspondents to present their work and answer questions put to them by the audience.
Impressions of the Workshop:
Amit Topno whose project was on alcohol abuse in rural Jharkhand spoke about his subject, his father: “In my community, the men like a good dose of mahua (local liquor made from the mahua flower) and I often see the ill effects of this on their lives and those of their families. While looking for a subject I didn’t have to go far. A few days before I started taking photos, my father broke his leg in a drunken spell.”
Asked about his experience of working with the group, Sohrab Hura said: “To work with such a diverse group has been a pleasure. We’ve seen real progress in their photography between the first and second workshop. My hope is that one day these people will have their images published and exhibited alongside international photographers.” To this end, correspondents will continue adding to their body of work to further develop their stories in the coming weeks and months.
The project is a partnership between Video Volunteers and the Magnum Foundation. funded by The Fledgling Fund. Magnum Nominee, Olivia Arthur, and Delhi based photographer, Sohrab Hura, presented the workshops.