For many of us our personal photographs are among our most prized possessions. They help us remember the stories and people that have shaped our lives, as well as provide a lasting archive for future generations. But in some parts of the world, people have no personal photos at all, which is what what inspired Bipasha Shom to start GivePhotos, a project that gives photos to those who have none.
“Being able to immediately hand a print to someone who has never seen a photo develop before their eyes is pure magic.”
Born in Kolkata, India, Bipahsa moved to the U.S. just before she turned 2. Throughout her childhood, she frequently returned to India to visit family, where she loved to take pictures of the people she met along the way. What Bipasha quickly learned, was that many of those people did not have access to cameras, and had no family photos of their own.
“In our cell–phone–camera culture, it can be hard to imagine that there are people who have no photos of their children, their weddings or their own childhoods,” Bipasha says in a press release. “People were thrilled when I offered to take photos of them. But the problem was printing and getting that photo back to them after I took it. With the reemergence of instant cameras, I realized that we could completely shift the dynamic of taking and giving photos.”
With plans to head back to India this past December, Bipasha cold pitched her idea of GivePhotos to Fujifilm to see if they would be interested in supporting the project, and they were! Fujifilm donated 1,000 instant prints and four instamatic cameras to Bipasha, and along with her husband, cinematographer Chris Manley, and longtime friend and web developer Juliet Black Nicholas, they were off.
The team has been sharing stories and photos of the people they have been meeting on their travels. Here are just a few…
“Chanda is 19 years old and married. She stopped working in the potato fields a month and a half ago when she had the baby. While she does have some pictures from her wedding, she has no pictures of herself growing up.”
“We went for a sunrise walk on the beach in Puri and found this fisherman repairing his nets at 5:30 in the morning. We asked if he had any photos of himself and then took his picture. He was seriously studying the image as we walked away. When we looked back we saw that he had run over to a group of other fishermen. He was beaming as he proudly showed them the picture.”
“Sabitri is partially deaf and works as a bathroom attendant. We gave her a photo and came back later to find that she had put it in a plastic bag. She was carrying it with her as she worked, her face beaming with happiness.”
Regarding the future of the project, Bipasha said in an interview with Photoshelter, “We would love to continue the project and travel to other countries. We realize that giving a photo is not like building a school or a hospital or feeding the hungry. But, I think a photo is something that feeds the soul. So many people we gave photos to said that they would have them framed and put on their wall. It’s hard to know how these images will impact people’s lives, but I think we’ve brought some small amount of happiness.” And clearly, so much more.
Bipasha has worked as an editor on numerous tv commercials, music videos, documentaries and features. Most recently, she was senior producer on Uprising a news and politics tv/radio show on Free Speech TV and Pacifica Radio. Bipasha has an undergraduate degree in Cultural Anthropology from Cornell University and a M.A. from the Annenberg School at The University of Pennsylvania.
Chris is an Emmy award-winning cinematographer best known for his work on the tv series Mad Men. His lengthy resume includes commercials, music videos and features. Chris has an undergraduate degree in film from Temple University and a Master’s in Cinematography from the American Film Institute.
Julie has been documenting travel since she made her first trans-continental trip from South Korea to the United States at age 8. With a background in web development and photography, she serves as the technical and social media consultant to the GivePhotos Project. Julie is a graduate of Cornell University.