A few months ago I watched the Oscar winning movie called Born Into Brothels and I’ve been meaning to write about it ever since. Its a documentary on a photographer from NYC, Zana Briski, who goes to Calcutta to photograph the red light district, when she discovers that the children of the prostitutes are interested in learning how to photograph pictures. She sets up a photography workshop for a number of these children, gives them cameras, and in turn these children photograph their everyday lives.
I wont get into much more detail so that I don’t spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it…but the line between being a photographer/teacher begins to blur for the NYC photographer, and the film began bringing up similar feelings for me as working within a therapeutic/social-work context. That is to say, the photographer seemed to learn from her experience that although we may want to save others from a life that we may view as tragic or that we would not want for ourselves, we must recognize this wish and our limitations where we can do no more than offer support and opportunity (to learn, to explore, to grow). I also have to give Zana credit for going above and beyond what many would have done or thought they were capable of doing for these children. At the very least, the children discovered a part of themselves that allowed them to be creative, explore themselves and their environment, as well as become empowered through the use of creative expression.