Magazine article The Christian Century

Kids with Cameras

Magazine article The Christian Century

Kids with Cameras

Article excerpt

ZANA BRISKI is a New York photojournalist who went to India in 1995 to document the plight of women in a patriarchal society. In 1998 she encountered the prostitutes working in the red light district of Calcutta. She moved in with them and got to know their routines.

She also got to know their children, who went to school sporadically if at all. This didn't bode well for the boys, who 'already had limited prospects, but it was even worse for the girls, who were merely being groomed to go "onto the line" as prostitutes themselves. The children--ranging in age from ten to 14--were fascinated by Briski's photography, so she bought a number of inexpensive cameras for them to use themselves. Briski also held classes in photography.

It was about this time that Brisk/ got in touch with Ross Kauffman, a New York editor-cameraman, who traveled to Calcutta to help Briski record these remarkable children and their last-gasp effort at finding some meaning in their lives.

Born into Brothels, produced and directed by Briski and Kauffman, introduces us to these children and the photographs they took. It also records Briski's attempt to help them escape their dead-end lives. She pushed to get them into private boarding schools. The schools are hugely expensive, so Briski gave the children a lesson in capitalism by staging a show of their photos in New York City, hoping to earn the money needed to pay for school.

Meanwhile, the documentary follows the children around, both individually in the streets and as a group of burgeoning artists. A day at the beach is a welcome respite from the heat of the stifling neighborhood, while a trip to the zoo becomes a grim reminder of just how caged in and underfed creatures can be. …

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