Wednesday, March 25, 2009

The Genesis Foundation

I recently spent two weeks in India. In the second week I was in Kolkata attending a workshop on working with NGOs. The workshop was jointly organised by Changing Ideas and The Toscana Photographic Workshops.

The workshop was taught by Jonathan Torgovnik (photo journalist), Alice Wynne Wilson (Communications director of Action Aid) and Cheryl Newmann (Photography Director of the Telegraph Magazine).

There were 15 photographers in total attending the course. Some of us were assigned to a small charity like mine, Genesis. For some larger charities, like the Calcutta Samaritans, two photographers were assigned to the organisation. There was only one Indian on the course and to help us around Calcutta, each photographer was accompanied by a boy who had been through Future Hope, a home for street children, run by Tim Grandage.

I was assigned the charity, Genesis, which is a drug rehabilitation centre run by ex-addicts. It was started by Tanmoy Bose six years ago with a male rehabilitation centre. Then two years ago they started a women's facility and now they have started a children's facility. The rehabilitation programme is based on the orignial 12 step alcoholics anonymous programme.

We decided to work on a photographic essay exploring addiction and rehabilitation. I was taken to see drug addicts, street children and the various facilities of The Genesis Foundation. The closest I have come to drugs is space cake in Amsterdam, so this was a truly eye-opening experience for me. I learnt from not only what I saw but also from the ex-addicts I met.

I learnt that addiction knows no class boundaries. Street children living rough to well-educated people from respectable backgrounds can get addicted. But the drugs brings the addicts together eventually. And the addicts, especially those who inject heroin, are supsceptable to diseases like aids. And street children, who start off by sniffing cheaply available glue can graduate to brown sugar (Indian heroin), in a year.

I also found that many of the addicts were not so different from normal people I meet, facing their own problems. We all have addictions, and the line between a substance addict and a normal person is very fine.

Although the experience I had with Genesis was life changing, the organisation of the workshop by Changing Ideas could have been better. The research and the organisation of the workshop was not well done. Various people had their own issues. On my part, I could only start on my project two days late because Genesis was away on a beach holiday. Other photographers started work on Monday and had five shooting days, I had three. I have been to many workshops organised by the Toscana Photographic Workshops, and they were much more organised than this. I think that all the participants agreed that this was a great idea for a workshop, but the actual implementation was not well considered.

On the bright side, I think I did manage to capture some compelling images for Genesis. I would like to thank Tanmoy Bose, his wife Mridula Bose, Simon Beddo and Hubert Routh for making me welcome in their organisation. I would also like to thank my future hope guide, Sonu Kumar. He is going to become a great chef one day.

1 comment:

genesis said...

the genesis foundation...not only started by tanmoy bose...indrajit ghosh and tamisrajit banerji are also 2 founder member of the genesis foundation.