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.

2 Replies to “Photography”

  1. I accidently deleted the following comments by Melissa:

    This sounds like a great movie to see. I have a friend who lives in Haiti trying to help the communities there by building dry toilets and making the water drinkable. Her goal is not to go in there and do these things herself even though she is capable. Instead , her goal is to show the people how to empower themselves so they can do it. She also runs a photography group with the children. She has them take photos of their community of the things they like, don’t like, makes them happy, makes them sad, etc… She does this to empower the people, so that change can come form within. When I was reading your post it reminded me that something as simple as photography can give people the power to adjust their focus and see things a little clearer through their personal lens. They can be proud of their way of life through the lens. She doesn’t have these photos up yet but they made a film from them to show people their work. The photos are absolutely stunning and these are children taking the photos. They also bring tears to your eyes.

    You know what, she does have something about it on her site but the movie they made with the photos is really beautiful. Here is more about the photography project in Haiti:

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