Rajen Nair has a compelling story. As a photographer he has a peculiar way to look at things. In the following interview you will have a unique chance to see how the artistic aspect of his photografy work has brougth him to turn a down gray aspect of his own life experience into an opportunity to creat something beautifull. He’s opened a new world of communication to deaf young people.
Why a photo project with the deaf young people? In 2000 I lost complete hearing in my right ear after an ear surgery failure and to add to my problem I subsequently got tinnitus, which is a non -stop ringing in ears and has no medical cure. Due to my struggle in hearing I had to wind up my business and had to fall back on my writing to make a living. I felt that I will write about travelogue stories and thought of learning photography. I did a diploma in Photography and also Journalism. Than I began sharing my photos on social networking such a Facebook, Twitter and linkedin. I got a break to write for Guardian UK which was heaven sent. I became their contributor and of other websites as well. But it was my photo-essays that attracted lot of attention especially from well-wishers from overseas. I never showed any interest or inclination towards photography during my youth. It was the circumstance that made me a photographer. I call myself a photographer by default. My loss of hearing is connected with my becoming a photographer and perhaps helping me click good photos. This is when I decided that I should pass on this skill of photography to deaf community who will benefit like I did. I believe when one loses any one’s sense or organ, nature or God compensates it with other senses. A deaf person relies more on his eyes to communicate and photography is all about eye co-ordination. This is how I stepped in to the world of deaf. I began teaching photography in a deaf school by taking classes on weekends that was five years back.
How many young people took part? When I was teaching in deaf school I had about 30 to 40 deaf students attending photo learning classes. It was totally a volunteer effort. I continued teaching for three hours travelling one and half hours from home to school, carrying a load of cameras. I took up new assignment covering news visually for TV channels and found it difficult to find time for my deaf students. I stopped going to school. Meanwhile I had created an online group known as Deaf Photography where deaf can show their creative skills by sharing photos. Most of my deaf students are part of the deaf photography. After I left the school we began missing each other. My students wanted me to continue teaching them photography, than we decided we will meet on outdoor photography once or twice a month. This has been going on from past two years. At any given time when we go on outdoor photography I will have 15-20 students. Besides deaf I conducted photo workshop for autistic children, dharavi slum children and am involved with caner children having tie up with leading cancer hospital Tata Memorial Hospital, Mumbai
What was it like to teach them? Do you think their composition skills are different in any way? I love to be in the company of children esp disabled and cancer children One of the main barrier I faced with deaf was communications. Initially I had one my student as interpreter but now I know a bit of sign language and am at ease teaching deaf. I do get touch much on technical aspect of photography except teaching them the basic dwelling more on framing and composition. It is very tough teaching deaf, communicating with them, keeping them focus, arranging an outdoor trip and above all financing the trip. It is self-financing project of mine with a mission that I make them photographer so that in future they make a living by becoming a wedding or fashion photographer.
What are they doing now? (did the project open opportunities for them) They are still young and yet to complete their studies. Once they come out of college they might become professional photographers. I am always there to help them become a professional
What lesson do we learn ? After stepping to the world of disabled such as deaf, autistic children, slums and cancer children I am at peace with myself. It is my mission to impart the photography skills to disabled and cancer children. The biggest challenge is how to raise funds to finance my project. One of the options is to start an NGO. I believe that vocational course such photography will go a long way in bringing out creativity of these disabled and cancer children and also as career option too for them in future to work as professional photographer.
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