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Amos Trust asked me to travel with them to India, to visit their partner Karunalaya, to document the work they do with girls and young women who live on the streets and the pavement-dwelling communities in Chennai. I was blown away by the people I met; the staff, the children and the adults they support. Karunalaya is a very special place. I hope the following images capture some of that magic.
Pavement dwelling community at Barracks Road. I was struck by Usha and her zest for life. Her ability to inspire the the younger children was inspirational. I wanted to take her portrait in front of where she lives. She was very proud of her community and I think it shows in this photograph of her.
I’m not sure what I had in my mind before I visited Barracks Road but I was amazed by the place. I really liked the atmosphere and the sense of community that has been built up over many years. As night fell the children of one of the families put out their beds in front of their lean-to dwelling and settled down for the night on the street.
I took this shot of Barracks Road from a high vantage point to show how despite the conditions, its residents find ways of dealing with the practicalities of living on the street. Their houses are built against the wall of an old barracks — like ‘lean-to’s’ with corrugated roofs onto which they dry and store their clothes.
I set up a mini studio on Barracks Road and took photographs of some of its residents. I was struck by the willingness of them to be in front of the camera and to collaborate on how they would like to be represented and seen by others. Hopefully I captured a sense of their strength and dignity.
On a project like this you spend some time at the place you are photographing and the children begin to relax and perform less for the camera and you are able to capture images in a more observational and natural way. I was struck by the girls’ zest for life and the way that the older girls become role models for the younger ones.
The girls take great pride in keeping the centre clean and tidy. I followed Chandini around for at least 30 minutes as she enthusiastically swept the whole centre. There was a pride in what she was doing and she was happy for me to follow her as she undertook her daily chores. I got a sense that she felt a belonging to the centre.
When I had spent sometime at the centre and the girls were used to me being around I set up my mini studio and took some portraits. At first the girls understandably want to either perform in front of the camera or mess around and pose how they think they should in front of their friends.
As the session went on and they got past the initial excitement and novelty of being photographed, they relaxed and that’s when I felt I captured something a bit deeper.
Paul is one of those people you meet in life who is truly inspirational. Behind that calm exterior is a power force fighting for human rights. It was a real pleasure to spend time with him especially when he shows you his city from the back of a Royal Enfield motor bike.
I was impressed by the children’s willingness to learn. Education is key to getting themselves out of poverty and equally it is a tool for them to learn about their rights. Sometimes faces pop out of the crowd and you press the shutter!
I visited the homes at HUL Nagar, a complex built to house the community whose homes were destroyed by the 2004 tsunami. There were no complaints, unlike in my house, when it comes to children doing their homework. Having a puppy chew on your finger as you are studying always helps.
Join us as we journey with girls on the streets as they take control of their own lives, and challenge the injustice they experience daily.
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