I am back in India to teach a workshop and to continue my work on The Idea of India project.
Thanks to a wonderfully imaginative collaboration between the grant program and the school, we will be spending an intense two weeks with nine students exploring stories that speak to issues of cultural and religious pluralism, and social and civil conflict aftermath.
Though the actual workshop will run from August 1oth till August 22nd, the students have already been working on their stories for at least a month now. They started to develop story ideas about four weeks ago and both Sara and I have been working with them to review, revise and approve the ideas. Some of the students have made contacts on the ground and carried out extensive background research on the subjects they are covering and the institutions and individuals they will be working with. Suffice it to say, it has been an intense learning process and we are not even starting until next Monday!
These workshops concentrate on the challenges of researching, structuring, executing and producing narrative documentary stories. They are less about the aesthetics of photography or the mechanics of producing it. Though of course some relevant details will be address. The focus does reflect the priority that both Sara and I place on the need to explore social, economic and political issues from the perspective of individuals and the worlds they occupy. Sara and I have had the privilege of helping students identity stories that relate to issues of cultural and religious pluralism, and stories about those dealing with the aftermath of economic, political, sectarian and other conflicts. We are pushing students to engage with the complex, to shy away from cliche’s about India and about her culture, and to prepare to explore and discover the autonomy and determination of even the most dispossessed and marginalized of her citizens. We are pushing them to see and document real people, in a real country, without prejudice and preconceived simplicities. It will not be an easy two weeks for the students, and for the teachers, that is for sure.
If possible I will try to blog about the progress of the workshop. Perhaps some of you are interested in following the work and sessions and to stay engaged with what we are struggling with and discussing. A lot depends on my internet access and of course time, but I will do my best to update the India Diary in a consistently.