Balarka Brahma: The Other Side of Convention
Balarka Brahma documents the positive attitude that Kolkata’s various Muslim communities share towards the right to education.
Around two years ago, the Institute of Social Works, Kolkata commissioned me for an assignment to document their activities in and around the city. This involved extensive travelling around Kolkata and its surrounding areas like Barrackpur, Barasat, Murshidabad. During these travels, I interacted with all kinds of people. One thing that stood out the most in my interactions was the rising importance given to education, especially in the Muslim communities.
Traditionally, madrasas have been given more magnitude, but there has been a shift to state-affiliated education in urban areas and smaller towns. NGOs work towards raising awareness amongst parents as well. This move towards more mainstream education has made it easier for children to transition to colleges and universities.
I spent over 16 months travelling to various areas to document the state of education. I am not a fan of shooting continuously and always talked to the person before photographing them. Their comfort and forthrightness was crucial to the project.
There is a positive shift in thought that is taking place, slowly but surely, and that is what I wished to bring to light through my photographs.
When Photographing a Social Issue as a Long-Term Project
- Research is the most important part for any project. If your research is weak, the project will be weaker. Make sure you read enough and speak to the right people for the correct information regarding your project.
- You need to gain trust from whoever you are photographing. Since you will be privy to their lives, it is important that you are trusted.
- Patience is the key when pursuing a social issue. It is not possible to finish the project with just a two or three day visit. You have to spend time with your subjects for months, and sometimes even years.
- You must remember that it is not only about making dramatic pictures. The issue needs to be heard through your work. Anyone can make pictures nowadays, but it is very hard to create a strong and compelling story.
–As told to Natasha Desai
You can find more of Balarka Brahma’s work here