Society

Reporting live from Vyasarpadi

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Teenagers in the locality turn photojournalists with the help of Madras Marabinar, a collective comprising students of Journalism from Madras University

What do the children of Vyasarpadi have to say about their locality? “It’s home to so many excellent football players,” says 14-year-old S Gemina Sri. “It has so much to offer in terms of food,” says 13-year-old S Yogitha, another young inhabitant. D Parthiban, who’s just finished Class XII, sees it as a place whose people “are constantly struggling”.

To people from other parts of the city, this neighbourhood is ‘rowdy area’. “But there’s so much more to North Chennai,” says Sukumar Thangaraj, who’s part of Madras Marabinar, a collective of Journalism students from Madras University. Earlier this month, the collective held an eight-day workshop in mobile photography for children from Vyasarpadi. “We worked with Aarvam, an NGO that has been doing commendable work in the locality,” adds Sukumar, who is currently doing his PhD at Madras University.

Reporting live from Vyasarpadi

He, along with Vijay, Kaviyarasan Desing, Nanda Kumar, Pa Bupathi, and PB Krishna Priya, students pursuing a post-graduation in Journalism, held theory as well as guided, on-field photography classes at Kodungaiyur, Aduthotti, and Pulianthope for the children. “We chose eight kids for the workshop,” explains Sukumar. “We used a classroom in a Corporation School at Vyasarpadi to teach them theoretical concepts.”

Give it time

Initially, though, the team was disappointed to see that the children brought back photos of only what was usually perceived as beauty, such as flowers and landscapes. But a few days in, they opened up to the raw beauty of the people and the surroundings of North Chennai. “Their eyes caught things such as plastic water pots lined up before a Metro water lorry,” says Sukumar.

Reporting live from Vyasarpadi

This is exactly what his team had hoped for. “We wanted them to document their lifestyle and their neighbourhood, for only they can do so with authenticity,” adds the 27-year-old. “By showing this to the world, they can also speak of their problems, such as water scarcity, child safety, and improper garbage disposal systems.”

While some of the students brought their own mobile phones, others used phones supplied by Madras Marabinar, equipped with good cameras. “We asked them to take photos on themes such as lifestyle, environment, faces, religion, and food,” he adds.

The team was fascinated to see some of the children’s photos. “They showed how Ambedkar, for them, is not merely a leader, but a religion. Food-wise too, we got some interesting photos of not-so-popular beef dishes,” explains Sukumar. Yogitha, for instance, shot photos of uppukandam, a popular form of dried meat.

Reporting live from Vyasarpadi

Sukumar and team want these children to be photojournalists working for their people. “We told them that instead of, say, posting selfies on Facebook, they can post photos of the water pots lined up, and write about how their area constantly fights for clean, drinking water,” he says. The Journalism students also taught the children how to efficiently tag on social media as well as write crisp captions.

A selection of the photos taken by the children will be displayed in an exhibition today. Among the most telling images are Parthiban’s, of people involved in manual scavenging. Parthiban says that he explained his purpose to the men before he photographed them. “I told them that their photo will show their children the difficulties they undergo every day,” says Parthiban. He knows that, somehow, this photo will serve its purpose. “Their sons or daughters will perhaps see the photo in the exhibition,” he adds. “They will hopefully go back home and study harder for the sake of their father.”

The exhibition Vilimbin Oligal will be held on the pavement along Vyasarpadi Erukkancheri Road, Opposite Dr Ambedkar Government Arts College, 10 am to 6 pm today. For details, write to filmfotografsuku04@gmail. com, or call 9710861261.

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Printable version | May 22, 2019 6:00:44 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/society/reporting-live-from-vyasarpadi/article27137482.ece

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