ascetics with cameras

12 years of Juna Akhara media-seva: 2004-2016

Ascetics with Cameras had been providing multimedia services, tools and training to Shiva’s Army – the sadhus & sadhvis of Juna Akhara – since 2004. It was our mission to, not only provide multimedia tools to document and preserve the living-histories of these followers of Sanatan Dharma, but more importantly to train the members (of the oldest and largest order of Dasnaami Hindu ascetics) to document it for themselves. Giving them the skills to share with the world the stories and aspects of their culture they find important, will empower these ascetics to participate in the process of media-making to which their Akhara has been subject for centuries and enlighten audiences to the sacred, ancient paths and esoteric traditions of truth seekers.
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"When you are on the outside looking in, it's sometimes difficult to get the story, much less get the story right..."

When I first tried to give cameras to the women, many of them seemed nervous to try making excuses like “But I don’t know how to take pictures.” or “I’ve never done this before, I won’t be any good.” But they were lining up for cameras, once I put it this way: “You tell me everyday in your sadhana you meet god, and you don’t think you can learn to use a camera?”

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Maha Kumbh Mela Ascetics with Cameras: mission # 1 – promo video from relativelyLocal on Vimeo.

Most (travel) photographers who venture to the Kumbh Mela, India or any where foreign to them in general, tend to photograph anonymously. That is, it’s quite the norm to take pictures of people with out knowing who they are, much less actually consider what's in it for the subject. Furthermore few photographers make considerable effort to give a copy of the image to their subject.

Something very important to Ascetics with Cameras mission is ensuring the ascetics receive the photos they pose for.

“In a way I’ve also acted as somewhat like a liaison between the babas and other foreigners with cameras. I also make sure to give them my card with email so they can email me the photo and I can print it for them, trying to explain to them how important it is for them, at least they can get something out of it. I have begun to see more and more photographers giving their photos back to their subjects. I certainly hope this trend picks up.” – program director, Nicole Jaquis

Ascetics with Cameras (free of cost to the receiver) gives prints to the ascetics photographed (by a various photographers using digital cameras), during the Kumbh Mela and thereafter.

ascetics with cameras

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