Happy Camera Club: Photography Workshops for the Underprivileged
In 2011, I started Happy Camera Club to teach photography to underprivileged individuals. To share honesty, doing photography workshops was an experiment without any expectations. Part reason to do such an experiment came because of my love for photography, part because I wanted to challenge myself and rest because I wanted to create a real impact. Of course, this was more of a romantic thought. Switching to working as a full-time freelance photographer (and that too as a photojournalist) in India post my masters in business administration and engineering was not easy at all. I completed my MBA in 2005, left my job in 2007 to work as an independent photojournalist and then started taking management gigs to supplement my income.
So, I started Happy Camera Club by approaching an NGO in Bangalore and suggesting I want to teach photography to their kids. Would they be interested? Would they come for photography workshops? Will I be able to teach them photography? There were many variables, doubts, and questions. The best way to answer them was of course to give it a try.
APD, the NGO in Bangalore whom I touched base was supportive and kind enough to let me teach in their campus. And manage the class internally. All the students who came for the first photography work were differently abled. And financially difficult backgrounds. But they were incredibly hardworking, jovial and enthusiastic. I started teaching on weekends. From an first six students who enrolled in my first class we ended up 14 students towards the end of 4th class. The classes too became more serious, intensive and the workshop lasted for a month. Each class would be around 4 hours. And we did both practical and theoretical sessions . Basically we practiced what we learnt in theory.
I was not charging anything and I knew this would not have been a continuous affair. However, friends and family came and they chipped in. Photographer friends volunteered their time and did complete one month workshops themselves. In all we did around 6 workshops with different NGO’s (Delhi and Bangalore) and similar number of exhibitions. We had a business plan in mind but I left it as a social experiment.
Turn to present and I still remember my days at Happy Camera Club. The days I taught were the happiest days in the week. The students were fearless. They would have made my mentors and teachers from whom I learnt my photography proud. F*** disability, they would be present early morning outside Delhi Metro Station in Old Delhi and be ready to shoot. And they were so positive. I am still in touch with a few. And they all at times ping me now and then hoping we will reinitiate photography workshops at Happy Camera Club . Photography as a medium is picking up (as an indicator these days smart phones are talking more about their lenses than phone abilities). And photography is such an important medium for self-expression. And basic human rights to express themselves. In such a scenario Happy Camera Club with its work would make more impact and sense. maybe we will restart and some folks will come and be a part of this journey. For now I am leaving with some work we did at Happy Camera Club. You can see it here and here.