Thursday, February 18, 2010

A Karmic Flickr Connection

'Knock and the door will open. Seek, and you will find'

This is a Flickr Connection story with a sort of Holy Grail
twist to it, for me at least.....

I have spent most of my life bemoaning the lack of actual
recognition my extremely talented artist Father Sam Millar
Sam Millar Artist
received during his lfetime, and my desire to correct this
injustice has been a lifelong quest.

A few years ago I decided to share his personal story via a
blogpost I called 'Mother India and My Father'. A story
that revolved around a poster he created for one of
India's most beloved and respected films, back when he
was working in the Indian Film industry. Conducting web
Searches for info about him and his Mother India poster
convinced me of the tragic ignorance and total disregard
for his craftsmanship. When the iconic poster showed up on
Google it was as a recreaton, now re-titled 'Father India'.
A ripoff by Index Advertising in India, who had 'their' work
publicized internationally, with absolutely no credit notes
to the (original, and) deceased artist. Not even a nod to
the creators of the film.

In this age of Photoshopping, online mash-ups and 'Share 
Everywhere' philosophies, I let it pass and moved on. But always
in the back of my mind I wanted someone, somewhere outside
our family to acknowledge and appreciate his intense vision
and talent as an Artist, Musician, Promoter, Impresario, and
Humanitarian. A man with a restless soul and a wandering
spirit who used his power of persuasion to gain favor with
Bollywood film stars, Producers and Directors, Restauranteurs,
Clergymen, and the lower strata of society alike. I could go on
and on about his achievements but I will resist and instead
try to focus on the whole Flickr Connections aspect of this
post as I originally intended to.

A Flickr member who wishes to remain anonymous saw my
Flickr Photos and added me as a Contact there after
viewing my collection of pics of Pune City, our one-time
mutual hometown in India. Moved by a deep feeling of
nostalgia he dug deeper into my entire collection of pictures
and discovered the few superb samples of my Dad's artwork.
On his way to a visit his parents' home in Pune he mentioned
he was determined to photograph the historic and beloved
old landmarks before economic revitalization totally erased
them. Along with frequent updates came a cryptic message
that he had a surprise in store for me. As I rattled my brain
about what this total stranger could possibly mean, I imagined
he would tell me he had run across some old friends of mine.
But unconsciously I believed and wished he had something
much more in store. And I wasn't disappointed on that count.
Rather, blown away by what arrived next in my Flickr mail.

It turned out that J.H. visited all my old childhood
haunts : schools, churches, Muslim shrines and also the
neighborhood Restaurant our family patronized almost daily,
named Shri Krishna Bhavan. Pretending to be my ex-
neighbor, he asked a few questions about my family,
the Millers and when he mentioned my Dad's prolific and
terrific artwork, a chorus of voices shouted out, 'Sam Millar' !

Then the Restauranteurs' stories began and didn't stop for
two days, in which time J.H. was immediately elevated
to VIP status, and was escorted to the Pardesi family home.
There, up on a wall was a painting of the family patriarch
Mr.H.Pardesi, painted and signed by my Dad !
I received by email. 

J.H. was now a shaken, nervous man, dazed at this twist
to his latest trip to Pune. Both of us hesitantly call this our
Karma, for how else to explain it ? My lifelong thirst for the
knowledge that someone remembered, appreciated and
respected the artwork of my Dad was quelled by proxy when
two strangers living continents apart made a connection on
Flickr that would set the wheels of Fate in their favor.
I now have photographic proof that my Dad was not forgotten,
thanks to a Flickr photographer who was so moved during
his trip that he shared these moving lines with me privately
(till now) on Flickr :
"God gimme the time and the resources to keep safe the
remaining heritage and structures in my cam before they
too are lost to time...i have become very very emotional....
I dunno...honestly I think all that nostalgia is gonna kill
me...I have spent the whole day brooding....very very
disturbed....upset....I wanna do something in a way I
can give back to society.......Mother Teresa is my idol
.....I can never reach that degree of service....but I wanna
give back in some measure ...."

And so it goes, another Flickr connection story. No romance
here in the traditional sense but no doubt one that I think
must be shared here and on Flickr, Facebook, wherever
good stories are repeated. It's just too uncanny to keep
buried like so much of the work of Sam Millar, Artist.

**  More info on the concept of Gurudakshina

*** About Flickr, by Flickr :
".....almost certainly the best online photo management
and sharing application in the world."

Sunday, February 07, 2010

Born Into Brothels : An Update

It's been over four years here since I headlined
a Blog link about Zana Briski, the Photographer
whose inspired Photography classes for the children
of Prostitutes in Kolkata, India turned into a
stunning Documentary film entitled
'Born Into Brothels'

Since then there have been some developments
as amazing as the Oscar-winning film itself. Like
Kids With Cameras, a worldwide Non-Profit
organization with branches in Jerusalem, Haiti and
Cairo. The Founders of this Charitable Cause are the
same ones who created the original film, Ross Kaufman 
and Geralyn White Dreyfous who say of themselves,
"We use photography to capture the imaginations
of children, to empower them, building confidence,
self-esteem and hope"

And their ongoing efforts have indeed done just that,
judging by the latest update on one student,
Avijit Halder

who started shooting pictures at age 11. His pure, raw
talent led him to Exhibitions and Awards in cities as distant
as New York and Amsterdam. Rather than give away
all the fascinating details of his and the other childrens'
success, I'll let the links open your minds via the updates.
Suffice it to say that this child born to a Prostitute in
a Brothel in an Indian slum is now busy studying film-making
at Tisch School of Arts at NYU and has already produced
some intriguing YouTube versions of his work !

Avijit needs funds to cover his education at NYU. His
life outcome and talent hang precariously in these hard
economic times. And so he asks those who are appreciative
and able to consider purchasing Postcards of his photos.

Learn more by clicking on this link.

Update Feb 7th 2010 from the BBC  
Not all the children who featured in Born into
Brothels have been so lucky.

Earlier Updates from the Kids With Cameras site 
Suchitra, 14
"When I have a camera in my hands I feel happy.
I feel like I am learning something...I can be someone."