An exhibition of photographs clicked by the children of Salam Balak Trust in Delhi gives expression to their aspirations as well as deprivation

At a swank showroom of United Colors of Benetton in Central Delhi, few mammoth-sized photographs of lesser privileged children are mounted at rather easily accessible locations. If in one a child is seen carrying loads of enticing samosas placed in leaf-made bowls with onion rings and green chutney as the topping, in another one a rag picker wearing a torn shirt and jeans balances his steps on a railway track with a sack full of garbage on his head.

In contrast to these is a photograph of a few children taking a splash in style in the water body of India Gate. In some other pictures, shadow photography makes itself prominent.

These photographs are clicked by the children of Salam Balak Trust (SBT) after being trained by Enrico Bosson, a UK-based photographer and the head of Fabrica (UCB’s international multicultural centre) Photography Department. The children shot pictures after a week’s workshop with Enrico.

This was an initiative by Unhate Foundation, a special programme started by the UCB in which the U.K. promotes the acceptance of diversity within the globe.

Mariarosa Cutillo, chief executive officer of Unhate Foundation, said: “I got in touch with SBT through UCB and we selected a few children who were inclined towards photography. After doing a workshop with them, we let them free to shoot under the theme ‘Home’ and what home means to them. That’s why a few kids have shot the trust’s picture and the life they live there (at the trust). We have also taken two children to the U.K. to teach them photography so that they could take it for a career.”

Speaking about his experience with the children, Enrico said: “Working with SBT children, for me, was like entering a new and big family, where everyone has a role and a dream to chase. In that intense workshop week, my little dream was to try to approach them, looking at their faces, at their eyes and to listen and imagine the many unsaid things. My goal was to be accepted not as a teacher — also because I would have had nothing to teach them — but simply as a classmate to whom to show the photos or share ideas and thoughts. During those days to review with them all the photos, trying to identify what was the specificity and uniqueness of each child, made me realise to be in a special place, where there was a lot to learn.”

Strangely though, the photographs despite having ‘Home’ as its main topic, had little defining it except some pictures from the trust itself. Most children squeezed street sides, roads in the topic and came out with some warm, telling photos.

Enrico agreed, “Going to the street to take pictures puts you in a different way, even if you come from that street. During the shooting, I noticed that they were keeping a certain distance from their ‘subject’; they were embarrassed to get closer to their subjects. To help them understand and overcome that distance was the most exciting moment for me. Each of them is the creator of a change of perspective. But at some point, they entered into their everyday life like no one else could do. This fact made me happy as they did an extraordinary work. In their pictures, I saw the pictures I always wanted to do.”

A child from the trust said philosophically, “Holding a camera was a magical experience. Shooting felt like a responsible exercise; after all, we were underprivileged, who aren’t forgiven easily. Taking our own pictures in situations we live isn’t a great feeling but it makes us realise where we have always stood.”