As we walked through our local flea market last weekend, my son stumbled upon an old Fisher Price view-master. It looked just like the one I had as a kid. He wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I showed him how to flip through the slides and look at the pictures inside. He was mesmerized, particularly because there were dinosaurs being displayed on the small screen.
Kids love pictures, and they love getting their picture taken.
But what happens if you give children the camera and allow them to create their own photography?
This is the question that Babita Patel, a humanitarian photographer, asked herself as she created her nonprofit organization, View Finder.
View Finder was created to help disadvantaged children discover self-expression, self-confidence and self-worth through photography. Looking through a viewfinder helps children see themselves and their world differently. Literally.
“I was struck dumb. For I never realized a person could walk through life without knowing his own physical self. But photography can change that. It lets a child see himself & his world through different eyes. By learning tangible skills & creating new avenues of self-expression, he can contribute to his life & his community.” ~ Babita Patel
Earlier this year, View Finder held a workshop with 18 child slaves in Haiti. For the first time, these children were able to tap into their creative potential. As Babita notes, studies have shown this will help them with their math and science classes, improve their problem-solving skills, and grow them into future leaders within their communities. A gallery show exhibiting the children’s work was held at their school at the end of a week-long workshop. All the equipment was then donated to the school, so the students could continue their photography education long after the workshop is over. This same work was also shown in America at a gallery New York City. View Finder will also host its first show in Santa Monica on September 14.
The three-member View Finder crew will visit 40 children living in the slums of Nairobi, Kenya next. This workshop will focus on self-identity and community-identity. The students will give context to who they are and who they are within their slum neighborhood through photography. Babita tells me, “It is a story not many people have heard of. Including the children themselves!” A gallery show at the school and local community will follow the workshop and a sustainable photography workshop program is being coordinated with The Supply so the students continue to develop their camera skills and creative potential after the workshop has ended.
View Finder has a fundraising campaign for Kenya called 20K for Kenya ending on indiegogo on Saturday, September 14, after which people can support the campaign directly on the View Finder website. You can also support View Finder and its programs by purchasing the beautiful photography from the kids and Babita via the website.