Have you ever had an experience in your life that has changed you forever? For Babita Patel, a humanitarian photographer, that fateful day happened during an assignment to one of the poorest places in the Western Hemisphere: Haiti. In Babita’s words here is that moment that changed her life.
I WAS WALKING THROUGH CITÉ SOLEIL, the largest slum in the Western Hemisphere located in Haiti, one of the poorest places on Earth. Trash littered the streets and dirty stagnant rainwater was often used as latrines. The sun pulsated directly overhead, bleaching the blue sky to a blinding white. Sweat droplets raced down my spine and pooled at my lower back. Children dressed in rags – or for some, in nothing at all – played a spirited game of soccer with a half-inflated ball. I snapped a picture of a group of rambunctious kids, only to have eager young hands grab at my camera to see the image captured on my screen.
The novelty of the reproduction faded and most darted off between the shanty houses. One remained, diligently pointing at each face on the screen, as if ticking them off in his head. He stopped at the last one. His own. He let out a burst of pure, innocent, giggling glee and scampered off. Alone, I realized that for people who have next to nothing, a mirror is an unattainable luxury. This child only met his reflection by process of elimination. For he knew which ones were his friends and which one was the stranger.
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 and his world through different eyes. By learning tangible skills and creating new avenues of self-expression, he can contribute to his life and his community.
And thus, the seed for View Finder Workshop was planted.
founder, humanitarian photographer