I took the above portrait a few years back somewhere in a slum in New Delhi, India. It was loud, it was dirty, piles of trash, crumbling buildings around us, no working sewerage, the smell of two or three dogs that must have died several days earlier, lying there in the heat.
I’ve come back to look at that photograph again and again. There’s a print of it hanging right here in my office, the image found its way onto my website, it is part of my printed portfolio, it’s even on my business card, I shared it on social media, used it in presentations, heck... this photograph became the opener of my first post in this blog… helping me tell what I set out to do.
And yet, I don’t even know the the name of that boy.
I remember walking by, making eye contact, a shared smile, a tap on his left shoulder. What stays with me is the look of his eyes, pursing his lips. How he looks straight past my lens, directly into my eyes. His emotions, that honesty, the vulnerability and the strength and confidence that comes with it. What is he thinking about? What is his look telling me? Is he asking something? The truth is… I have no clue.
Yet, the story of that little boy is all what this is about. I may have missed the chance to tell it in depth that time, but at the same time this picture stays, telling it's own story. Looking at it, sharing it remembers me and everybody who sees it that this story is out there. It reminds me to go out, find and tell these stories, there are countless boys and girls like him out there, kids, women and men who can’t speak for themselves. They have countless stories, stories the world needs to hear. Stories the world needs to see. Stories I set out to tell.
I grew up with the privilege of being a bilingual kid, italian roots, living and growing up in Germany. I’ve always seen myself as a European, citizen of the world. We’re all together in this. I was lucky to learn even more languages soon. Not the easiest childhood, so I directed my view outward. Photography became a tool that helped me understand the world around me, look at it from different perspectives, connect with people. My background in education - special needs education - and the studies in cognitive psychology taught me how to connect with people, how to get past their facade. Connect with people with a huge variety of roots and backgrounds, often growing up and living in rather uncomfortable situations, difficult backgrounds. It also taught me a lot about how we react and process what we hear and see, it taught me how to visually communicate. So my path became clearer and clearer. It led me to that little boy I don’t even know the name of. Lucky to learn from everybody I am blessed to photograph and thankful to be able to go out and search for people and stories. My hope is to raise awareness, to give back.
So… is this about me?
No. not at all.
thanks so much!