Category Archives: photography

My Heart’s Home

Last month, I returned from my 7th trip to India, visiting the awesome kids who stole my heart eight years ago. On this trip, I took my mother who has grown to know these children through me, and understand that this place is my heart’s home, my second family. It was an incredible experience having my American mother meet my Indian family for the first time, in person.

I would like to share a photo essay of this wonderful time together. Peace, love and namaste.

The 7477+ Mile Pilgrimage to the Holy Ganges

Today’s story is a guest post by Lloyd Greene, a fine art photographer.

One of the Holiest Places for Hindus is the west bank of the Ganges River in Hardiwar, India. Many people pilgrimage yearly to pay respect at this “Gateway to God.” This spiritual center is where the Temples reside and evening prayers are conducted.  Upon entering the area, all shoes are confiscated. Everyone must walk barefoot on the cool wet tile. There are benches where you can sit behind the altars, but my favorite spot is to kneel along the steps in front of the Ganges.

From this location, I had a direct view of the altars and the pilgrims sending tributes in the river.  I didn’t understand Hindi, but easily understood the solemn intensity of Pilgrims getting ready for prayers.  As the afternoon light turned into a royal blue, the music started and the sweet smell of incense got stronger. I tried to ignore this wonderful assault on my senses, because I came to the Ganges to make imagery.

My name is Lloyd Greene and I am a photographer.

My thoughts of traveling to India started several years ago. I read stories about Pilgrims traveling great distances for the spiritual cleansing and healing in the Ganges River. So I researched and planned my expedition.  The result was that Haridwar, India was a great place to visit, learn and commune.

Haridwar is a long way from my home in Beaverceek, Ohio. Getting there took more than a full day, but the transportation was straightforward.

The trip effectively started with American Airlines in Chicago. They have nonstop 777 flight service into New Delhi, which is 7477 miles away and it takes approximately 14 hours. I got a window seat and was constantly rewarded with exciting scenery. We flew over the polar ice cap, Finland, Russia and Afghanistan. I mentally whispered my gratitude to the Boeing engineers and AA flight crew as we safely touched down at the Indira Gandhi International Airport.

The ground transportation in India was more fun than any amusement park. Immediately outside of the airport, I noticed that traffic proceeds on the left side of the road. That was an easy observation. The harder part was figuring who had the right-of-way (or is it the left of way). There were trucks, buses, cars,  rickshaws, auto rickshaws, motorcycles, horses, oxen and pedestrians—they all share and compete for space on the same roads. The tuk-tuks (auto rickshaws) were my preferred travel method in Delhi, because they were convenient and easily able to deliver me to my photographic spots. However, these three-wheeled open-air vehicles didn’t seem very safe on some boulevards. There were times when I couldn’t muster the courage to watch the vehicles driving in what seemed like a real life bumper car ride. The vehicles routinely passed each other within inches, but I never saw an accident in Delhi during my short stay there.

After an incredible week in Delhi, I eagerly boarded a train north through the countryside to Haridwar.  For the first time in many days, I had comfort and quiet from the hustle-bustle of Delhi. Well, every now and then we could hear the train’s horn. Even so, it was a relaxing morning of tea, biscuits and vistas of the Indian countryside. In general, the Haridwar countryside was charming and peaceful. There were still lots of people, but there seemed to be more room for everyone. Yes, all the familiar transportation vehicles were in the country also but the activity slowed to a much more comfortable pace. In addition to the baths, the town has an airport, business, hotels and industry like many other small towns in the world. But—the Ganges makes Haridwar unique.

My daily trips to the banks of the Ganges were always different and emotionally rewarding. The view from the bridge caused most pilgrims to stop, gawk and take a picture—I did it myself several times! I saw a wide variety of activity including weddings and funerals.  Parents ensured that young people were appropriately dipped in the Ganges. Children carried water up to the Elders who weren’t able to traverse the stairs. Many people stripped down to their undies and jumped in the cold water.  Some people splashed and others completely immersed themselves and a few even drank the water. This activity continued throughout the day until it was time for the prayers to start.

Usually about 4:30 in the afternoon, people start making their way towards the altar for evening prayer.  While making my way down to the banks, I met one woman who has made the pilgrimage for 60 years. She smiled at me and said, “these days, the trip takes a little longer.” She asked me to allow her a few minutes for a prayer ritual and then inquired about my journey. Since I live in a farming community, we had a short discussion about the need for a bountiful crop in the fall. For us, the crop is profit, but each year it is survival for her. Then she stopped and whispered prayers for my village in the United States.

There are many unofficial and genuine spiritual leaders welcoming you for prayer. A man in yellow robes saw me from about 50 yards, and made eye contact. I was a little cautious as I approached. Then, he extended a warm greeting and I went straight towards him. We chatted for a few minutes (with the help from my interpreter), and I learned that he wanted to provide a blessing for my family. He then posed so that I would have images to bring home to my village—after all, I was also on a pilgrimage of sorts.

Once at the ceremony, we were instructed to sit “Yoga-Style.” All Pilgrims wanted a good view down front of the Priests and fires, and so did I. However, I noticed one night that there was an old woman sitting behind me. I motioned for her to get in front of me, and she got a big grin on her face. She moved up, and so did the other 15 members of her family J Even from behind, there was still plenty to see and experience.  There were Priests circulating through the crowd who sprinkled water and blessed the Pilgrims. They also offered tribute prayer boats for people to send down the Ganges.

I also received blessings and floated my tribute down the Ganges. Then, I shot pictures of my new friends and other Pilgrims as they celebrated well into the night. We left with a good feeling in our hearts and smiles on our faces. If you choose to visit, I’m sure that your experience can be spiritually rewarding like other pilgrims–and photographers.

Travel Hints for India

-       At the Ganges in Haridwar, visit both Banks

-       Always look to your right BEFORE stepping off a curb

-       Stay on the Hotel’s highest floor possible for the least noise

-       Skype is a low-cost way to stay in touch back home

-       Maintain a folder of itineraries, addresses and contacts; I used mine routinely AND needed the plane information upon return to the airport

-       Keep the Embassy’s phone number in your shoe in case of emergencies

-       Remember that India has more than 1.3 billion people in a geographical area about one-half of the U.S.-There is always competition for space, seats and rooms.

Lloyd Greene is a fine art photographer. To view additional imagery from this expedition or others, please email greene@greeneone.com or visit his website at http://www.greeneone.com . The expedition lead and interpreter was Mr. Hardik Pandya hardikpandya@yahoo.co.in.

Acknowledgements
I am sincerely grateful for the people supporting my expedition: Hardik, my  guide; He kept me safe and sound. The Hotel Manager at the Rivera Ganges who insisted that I share tea with him during the mornings. The cab drivers who tolerated me hollering “stop here.”  The scores of Pilgrims who posed at the Ganges and prayed for my family and village. The hundreds of kids who wanted me to take their picture. And, my family and friends.

All Images copyright by GreeneOne Photography 2012–All Rights Reserved

Before the Sun – Help a “Born Into Brothels” student realize his dream

©Avijit/Kids with Cameras

Maybe you’ve seen the documentary film, Born Into Brothels. A tribute to the resiliency of childhood and the restorative power of art, Born into Brothels is a portrait of several unforgettable children who live in the red light district of Calcutta, where their mothers work as prostitutes. Zana Briski, a New York-based photographer, gives each of the children a camera and teaches them to look at the world with new eyes. When it was released in 2005, the film by Ross Kauffman and Zana Briski won the Academy Award for Best Documentary Feature.

The film’s producer, Geralyn Dreyfous, was kind enough to write an endorsement for my book, The Weight of  Silence: Invisible Children of India. Geralyn said, “Weight of Silence makes visible children who remain invisible to the rest of the world and reminds us of each child’s right to dream out loud and in color.”

It’s been 7 years since Born into Brothels was made, and many of the children have gone on to pursue their dreams. One of them, Avijit Halder, himself aspires to be a filmmaker. And he’s raising money to fund his project, Before The Sun. Now a senior at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, Avijit has come full circle and is making his own film.

Geralyn Dreyfous wrote to me about Afijit:

Avijit Halder came into my life as a subject in one of the first films I executive produced called BORN INTO BROTHELS. He was a young determined 12 year old determined to get an education and pursue his dreams of being an artist. Several years later he came to Salt Lake City to visit and was offered a scholarship at a local day school Rowland Hall Saint Marks and then landed a scholarship to the Tisch School at NYU, majoring in filmmaking.

Today he is worried about starting his senior thesis, graduating and finding a job in a city he has come to love. He is a remarkable young man. Fearless and not afraid to try new things, Avijit will make his mark in the world as a photographer and filmmaker.

Before the Sun is an undergraduate thesis short film, written and directed by Avijit. It is a visual poetry set in the colorful neighborhood of Jackson Heights, Queens – a place where languages, beliefs, and traditions are piled on top of one another and identity is easily erased – it is the story of three immigrants, imprisoned in their mundane lives.

The three strangers – a Mexican teenage boy, an old Russian man, and a middle aged Bangladeshi housewife – slowly become entangled in a web of inevitability. In their daily lives they intersect one another, and through silent observations, hidden enigmatic bonds are formed.

They have never met one another nor they communicated in any way. Yet everyday expectations are formed as they long for one another. What will happen to these relationships when life takes its toll, shattering it’s fragile existence?

Born into humble beginnings in Calcutta, India, if there’s one person who’s been to the ends of the earth to do what he loves, it’s Avijit, one of the children documented in Born Into Brothels. The documentary’s prestigious Kids With Cameras Program and the amazing Geralyn Dreyfous helped him follow his dreams and his art, and he’s spent the past four years learning every aspect of filmmaking.

Here is what Avijit says about his film:

As an immigrant living in America, I know how hard it is to adapt, and to suppress feelings of nostalgia. When I first arrived to this country,  it was easy because everything was so new and exciting; but after a while I began to feel isolated.  I missed everything about Kolkata, my family, my friends; but most of all the feeling of being understood/ the feeling of belonging. 

Avijit Halder today - photo BBC News

This film is important to me because I believe that it gives a personal voice to immigrants living in  America. Many people in this country have misconceptions about immigrants. Some believe we are the cause of many problems, while others just feel pity for us; but we are never accepted for who we are . 

From experience I would say most of us are here to pursue the ‘American Dream’, and to better our condition. We sacrifice a life at home, but try to re-create a new home in America. This film will give a glimpse inside the mind of immigrants. 

If you would like to help Avijit realize his dreams, you can go to his Indiegogo page to make a contribution to his film. There is also a very nice story about him at BBC News.

Where are They Now? Order Autographed Book and Get Free India Photo

Santosh (now 19 years old!) and me-Oct 2010

If you have been following this blog, or read The Weight of Silence: Invisible Children of India (original edition), you may be wondering what has happened to some of these kids over the past few years. They may have grown near and dear to your heart, as they have to mine.

I have returned to India each year, and kept in touch with Santosh, Daina, Sibani, Sumitra and the others. I’ve also stayed in close contact with many of the organizations and adults who have tirelessly dedicated their lives to these children, their rights and their futures.

If you would like to revisit the world, and issues, of these kids – and find out what has happened to them in the last three years – then I invite you to pick up your copy of the newly released 2011 Revised and Expanded edition of The Weight of Silence. This new version has 25 additional pages, an entire Epilogue chapter, updating readers on the lives of Santosh, Daina, Yesu Babu, Sumitra and many others. There are also new photographs, taken last year. Wow, are they growing up!!

Chandler in India, 2006

And as a special gift, if you order a copy FROM THIS PAGE ONLY, via this purchase link, you will receive two additions from me personally. First, I will send you an autographed copy of the new book edition. Second, you may select from one of the beautiful photos of India, below, taken by my daughter Chandler. I will send you a 5 x 7 print of the photograph of your choosing as a gift, along with your book. If you would like a larger or framed photograph, visit Chandler’s store on Etsy, or contact me. I would be happy to send you a larger or framed version for a very small additional charge to cover those costs.

But the 5 x 7 photograph print is yours, with the autographed book when you order it here. The price of $16.95 includes the autographed book ($13.00) plus shipping, including the photograph. There will be a space for you to write the photograph number that you would like; please choose from the photos below. Thank you!

Order Now and choose from these photographs:

Photo 1

Photo 1

Photo 2

Photo 2

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