“I like to take photographs as we can secretly capture beautiful moments. Holding a camera creates in us a strange sense of enthusiasm, responsibility, and imagination.’
~ Mahadevamma M.
About Land and Lens
Land and Lens is a volunteer network that procures donated cameras, teaches photography skills to rural women and youth, and provides these individuals venues—as artists—to share their work.
The seeds of this project were sown in mid 2016—while brainstorming how to utilize art in creating positive impacts to the many land and community challenges of village women and youth. Twenty Land and Lens students were trained in photography basics and completed self-guided photo sessions during 2017. Their first public exhibition of photos was hosted in April of 2018, at the Venkatappa Art Gallery in Bengaluru (reviewed in The Hindu).
Focusing a Lens on Village India
The participants, all of whom maintain land, gardening, or forest livelihoods—focus a lens on their day-to-day lives. Soil and skies, crops and trees, community and home. Agricultural and rural landscapes, expansive and beautiful, but often stressed. With hardships and joys—the students share revealing glimpses into the daily rhythm of village India.
Empowerment and Opportunities
Land and Lens strives to inspire and empower our student photographers—while providing them opportunities to reveal their worlds through their own eyes. Additionally, these photographers now possess skills to produce environmental and experiential photo-documentation for themselves and for their host organisations of Punarchith and Vanastree.
Land and Lens thrives on experimentation. Volunteer organisers and student photographers—we are learning this together. Rural youth and women boldly take on something they have never done. While exploring new horizons—they look within and without, get past inhibitions and fears, and have fun along the way.
Students as Teachers
We asked one woman seed saver/photographer if she had a special process when taking photos. She said yes, she considered it herself and the camera “at play”. When we are playing, creating, and expressing—we aren’t just learning, we are also teaching.
Through Land and Lens, we aim to provide our photographers a uniquely creative space. One where their previously unrealised talents and expressions can teach us something valuable. Teach us through their own seeing and experiences—about their land and their lives.
Less is More
Land and Lens started with no cameras, curriculum, or established venues for output. Not an initiative to itself, we moved forward with some very appreciated and modest donations. We are now a flexible volunteer-based experiment under the guidance of the organisations Vanastree and Punarchith.
By typical community project standards, calling Land and Lens “bare bones” would be generous—yet we are starting to suspect it is one of the reasons this project is working in such a unique way, and why students and volunteer organisers are energised and care so much about it.
“This camera has become a good friend and has brought changes to my life.’