Magnum Photo Workshop Experiences Recalled: Reena Ramteke

“Many photographers have looked at government schemes in rural India, and yet with Reena’s work there’s a sensitivity that is clearly difficult to capture. Reena spent a lot of time with the woman and children at the Anganwadi centre, and this paid off in the final series that she produced.” - Photographer, Sohrab Hura - ReenaReena Ranteke was born in Gariaband, Chhattisgarh. Recognising that not many women were working as photographers in her area, Reena wanted to change this trend. “I see photography as a way to tell the truth about what is really happening in society” she says. To view Reena’s work on the life of an Anganwadi worker running a nursery school in rural Chhattisgarh, click here.   “Before coming to the Magnum Workshops, I was not very confident about my photography. I would take pictures now and then, but there was little variety or experimentation in my work. I knew nothing about the medium and I did not put much thought into it. When I got invited to be a participant, I felt it might be because my visuals were weak! I was very keen to attend the workshop though. To me learning is a life-long process, and this seemed like a perfect opportunity to better myself. In video people can be made to speak, this is of course not an option with photography. It is necessary, therefore, to find other ways in which to communicate what the subject is thinking, saying or doing. So much can be conveyed through good framing. But I learnt that this process takes persistence, time and effort. While a video report can be completed within a week, a photo series can take months. Reena1 Between the two sessions, I worked on a story about the Anganwadi scheme, established by the government to help combat malnutrition in rural corners of India. (These centres provide basic health care to people living in India’s villages, including contraceptive counselling and supply, nutrition education and supplementation, as well as pre-school activities.) Initially, I wanted to expose what I perceived as the ineffectiveness of such programs at the ground level, but this altered when I met an Anganwadi worker who seemed to be bringing about real change in her village. I thought why always show the negative side of an issue when there’s also some good there. At the second workshop, we focused a lot on editing and there were times when I felt a bit lost. Establishing an easy group dynamic is not always straightforward, and we often struggled to agree on which shots to include. In between editing, we were also given a photo exercise. The task was to capture the different ways people make money in Goa. For me, Goa brings about an image of beaches, and so I wanted to photograph a profession related to the sea. Accordingly, I chose to concentrate on the tourist boats that take people on sightseeing trips. I took some pictures of boatmen working and would have liked to delve further into the story by joining one of the boating parties, but I’m actually afraid of water! Reena2I enjoyed the experience of working with Olivia and Sohrab, in both Ranchi and Goa. Despite the language barrier, I felt we communicated well. I learnt a lot through the whole workshop, and it has inspired me to explore photography as a medium in my future ventures. At present, I am working on a story about a pregnant lady in my neighbourhood, documenting the experiences and challenges she is faced with. I have 122 photographs so far, which I am in the process of sending to the Video Volunteers office in Goa. In addition, I would like to do a project on a tribal woman who runs a small-scale business in my village, selling breakfast from a cart. A mother of three, she has to wake up at 5am each morning in order to finish her duties as a maid in two separate houses, before setting up her food stall. The woman is a pillar of strength, and it is stories like hers that I would like to tell.”   Reena3This 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, delivered the workshops. To read more about the workshop series, click here. To read about CC, Amit Topno’s experience at the workshop, follow this link.

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