: : Sujoy Dhar : :
Dwimalu Brahma is a teenaged boy from New Dimapur village in Assam’s tribal-dominated Bodoland area. His mother Maija Brahma, a widow, sells local beer to eke out a living. The family from Chirang district near Assam’s border with Bhutan owns half a bigha of farmland.
Dwimalu can create furrowed patterns in his field with a plough but he had never touched a camera before. But when his first brush with the magic instrument arrived in April 2010, it was baptism by D K Bhaskar, one of the famous India-born Natural History photographers residing in the US.
So as Dwimalu and 38 other boys and girls of villages in Chirang freaked out with the camera and came up with some of the moving shots of life in his village, D K Bhaskar the mentor found a muse for his commitment to the society.
Bhaskar says he lives in a virtual world with his motivation to capture and share extraordinary images with people.
But the Assam experience left him wonder struck in true sense. “I was fascinated by what they captured during the workshop. I want to showcase their works now in India and the US,” says the Mysore-born photographer.
A permanent resident of the US now, Bhaskar wanted to give back to the society in India what he perfected as an art and profession over the years. So he planned the workshops for children in some of the border areas of India, beginning with Assam’s Chirang. He is now planning to organise more workshops in Ladakh (Jammu and Kashmir), Lakshadweep, and Rajasthan.
“I was looking for an organization to help me. I found ANT or the Action Northeast Trust (theant.org). After six months of interaction with this NGO, I could finally come to India and conduct the workshop,” says Bhaskar.
“Chirang district is in Bodoland in Assam. The villages are about 30 to 45 km from the border (Bhutan). Many of the villagers are well-off agriculturists, but they have no resources.
“But the whole experience of photography workshop galvanized the children and became an eye opener for me. I myself learnt a lot from the children,” says Bhaskar, president of the International Photography Partnership, USA.
Founded by legendary photographer Frank Christian, International Photography Partnership (IPP), USA uses the creative medium of photography to give both children and women in the villages an opportunity to capture some of the rarest moments of their lives.
“The camera could be a new tool that can educate, entertain and help them to create a document of their life through their eyes. It could help them look at both their surroundings and themselves in a new light,” says an official of The ANT.
According to ANT, sponsored by Nikon USA, the cameras will be taken to villages, different in topography, different in language, culture and lifestyle and children will be trained to use the instrument.
The villagers will be encouraged to chronicle life around them – their environment, education, health, domestic life, culture, and the role of women. At the end of the workshop, a review of the participants is done and certificates issued for each of the participant.
Children who have had absolutely no feel and touch of cameras ever before (they were selected through an application process) in this region were given the opportunity to keep the camera with them, think creatively and shoot according to the subjects assigned.
Livelihoods, school, children, nature, home and family, religion and rituals, bazaars and shops were some of the chosen topics. The objective was not to give them too much technical information but rather make them use it creatively to document the life around them.
“After I reached Chirang, we called the people for a camp. I showed the children, all aged between 14 and 17, the basics of camera. Selected from ten villages, I asked the boys and girls to go out and shoot for two hours whatever they like.
“Then I divided them in seven groups next day. What they came up with was astounding. It was simply amazing,” says Bhaskar.
“They captured a Bodo tribe wedding. I think there is hardly any such documentation of a Bodo wedding available except for the only captured only by their cameras. They emerged as true ambassadors of their places,” he said
“I want to do more in the border areas. In those areas very little is known. Many border areas are often famous as tourist destinations. Millions in India live in the border areas under difficult circumstances.”
Bhaskar now wants to exhibit the work both in India and the US.
While Bhaskar is gearing up for the exhibitions, IPP is also working on creating a book with the choicest images.
“We hope this educational exercise would open a unique opportunity to understand the intricate life and cultural inheritance of people and their surrounding landscape,” says Bhaskar.