A photography workshop through epic India

The Giving Lens India is a photography adventure through one of India’s most photogenic states: Rajasthan. It is a travel photograph workshop to be reckoned with. We begin and end in Jodhpur, the blue city, where we will immerse ourselves in street photography, markets, colors, ruins, rooftops, and the people of this place. It is called the Blue City because a section is painted bright blue which makes for some really standout street photos.  From there we will partner with the amazing non-profit Sambhali House, working to get at-risk girls lifted up and out of poverty and stimgas and gender stereotypes and assisting them in forging brave new paths for themselves. We will enter in to this world and provide a photographic experience for them to tell their own stories, explore their own city, and find a bit of their own unique creative spark that only they have. 

After exploring Jodhpur and being with the non-profit we head out to the rural side of the province, to experience (respectfully!) life on the edge of the desert. That is before we head up to the actual desert just outside of Jaisalmer to photograph camels, dunes, and have dinner under the stars. After all of this we will head back to Jodhpur to celebrate (and photograph) Diwali.  We promise, it’s as amazing as it sounds!

Is this trip difficult?

This trip is physically moderate. There will be walking each day, climbing to viewpoints, but at this time no major hikes or difficult climbs await us. Stairs, hills, and walking the streets will be common, and some effort to reach a viewpoint will be required. Some effort on the dunes may be required. 

This trip will have some emotional demands. You will get to know the girls and get a glimpse into their real lives, and that will push you emotionally to face the fact that much of the world lives on very little. You may grapple with your own gratitude but also guilt meeting head-on. Some may feel a sense of helplessness but your leaders will assist in handling that and processing it. At the same time, you will be blown away by their attitudes, their strength, their curiosity, their willingness, and much more. In general in India you will be exposed to poverty at levels you may not have witnessed yet – we will assist in processing that, and also the ethics around photographing poverty.  Finally, India is a busy place, so you may find some situations slightly overwhelming if there is a lot of noise, color, and people around you. We will work as a team to avoid feeling overwhelmed. 

Reaching Jodhpur might require a little bit of research, as it’s not a major international airport, but it is serviced many times a day from various other major cities in India (such as Delhi). But other than that, it is a large airport, well connected to the rest of India.  From there, we stay in Jodhpur for 4-5 days, before driving not very far to Salawas (1 hour or so) and staying a night or two there. From Salawas to the desert will be a driving day, about 6 hours. Overall the travel will be average and the comfort level will be good/high. 

The standards of accommodation, quality of meals, and access to amenities of this trip are good. We will be staying in basic but pleasant local accommodation, similar to a b+b, in twin rooms. In Jodhpur, we are staying at the guest house run by the NGO – this further supports them and funds their projects. Each room has one double bed, and one comfortable cot. The food is very good to excellent, though you may find a touch repetitive as the trip goes on. We try to provide different food experiences to keep it mixed up but you’ll find many menus similar. 

Level of safety in India is good. During the day, you’ll find the atmosphere extremely pleasant and friendly.  In general, we do not advise going out after dark alone. Common sense with your camera gear is always required. Take precautions to stay in tourist zones if spending time in New Delhi. Women (sorry to say) are advised to not wear revealing clothing, and not to walk alone at night when possible. 

To some extent, this is a trick question. We are open to ALL skill levels, ALL cameras, and ALL photographic experience. The heart of our trips is giving back, exploring together, and fostering photographic growth (whatever that will look like for you). We’ve hosted novices enthusiasts with entry level gear, and professional documentary film-makers – on the same trip!  

Specifically speaking of India, this trip is best suited to photographers keen to photograph people, scenes, color, texture, and life. You’ll have a chance to photograph: street scenes, street portraits, cityscapes, ruins, rural scenes, night skies, and the desert. If you’re a landscape photographer, you’ll want to have an interest in photographing people and scenes (though there will be some landscapes too!). 

A Breakdown of the Tour

Here’s the scope of our epic trip to India: 

We will arrive to Jodhpur, an incredible small city full of life and color in Rajasthan. This is where our NGO is based and the next 4 or so days will be full of exploring, photographing, and working alongside some amazing young women at Sambhali House. The days will be busy but meaningful! From there we will take a few days to unwind in a rural community called Salawas, taking in the experience of a homesay (in huts with twin beds) and the countryside. Then we will make the (not too far) trek to the Thar Desert outside Jaisalmer, to explore the dunes, photographing sunsets and stars as we go. Finally we will return to Jodhpur just in time to celebrate Diwali! 

The team will arrive and depart from Jodhpur Airport. You may need a connection through Delhi. If connections don’t look good or easy, you may want to buy one leg from your home to Delhi, and then a smaller flight the next day to Jodhpur (or spend a few days in Delhi and visit the Taj!)

Departures will be from Jodhpur airport unless you choose to carry on to visit Udaipur, Jaipur, or the Taj Mahal 🙂

Jodhpur is an incredible small city. It’s bursting with color, markets, backstreets, and the famous blue area of town is so photogenic you might cry a little bit. There’s rooftops to watch sunset, and a massive ruin looming over the city. We will explore it all. We’ll seek many different types of photo situations (people, scenes, action, ruins, and more) and revisit some places a few times. This is the city where our NGO is based, where you will arrive and depart from. It’s also where we will celebrate Diwali!

Our NGO partner is based in Jodhpur so we don’t have to travel far to get involved. We will spend three days working with Sambhali Trust, partnering with the teenage girls they serve to explore Jodhpur with cameras in hand. We will foster creativity, storytelling, curiosity, and empowerment. These girls have some experience with cameras as is, so it should be fun to challenge and explore with them. Everyone on the team is required to fundraise two cameras to donate to the program. While we are with them, we will visit and document some of Sambhali Trust’s other initiatives (like skills training, education, and more). 

Salawas is a rural community outside of Jodhpur. Here we will participate in a homestay in traditional earthen huts (but with updated amenities for comfort). We will document their rug-making (traditional) and explore the life of the countryside. This will be a really nice break after many busy days in Jaipur, and offer more landscape opportunities and a slower pace. 

The desert! Here we will chase sunsets and stars and sunrises, a few camels, and have dinner around a fire under the night sky. We will do a few activities like walk through some rural villages (respectfully), photograph camels on the dunes, and otherwise take in the area without harming it. 

What is Included?

What is Not?

The NGO: Sambhali Trust

Sambhali Trust is a non-profit charitable organisation based in Jodhpur, whose focus is the development and empowerment of women and girls in Rajasthan. We provide underprivileged Rajasthani women and girls with an education in English, Hindi and Maths, as well as training in vocational and social skills, to support them in developing confidence and self-esteem, and help them work towards financial independence.

We work with women and children from all communities in Jodhpur and the rural Thar desert area surrounding Setrawa, who experience discrimination on a daily basis because of their low status in class, caste and gender. These women are greatly suppressed due to the patriarchal nature of their society and have little or no access to education. They are denied the right to choose their husband and often face a high level of verbal, physical and sexual abuse within their family circle and community.
This is why Sambhali Trust was born in 2007: to empower these deprived women.

We help these women break their cycle of poverty and financial dependence on family members, by teaching them valuable practical skills in order for them to earn a living. We educate those who could not go to school because they are born female. We sponsor children from poor families so that they can continue going to school and break the poverty cycle. We provide women with counselling and support when they are abused, left alone, blackmailed. Sambhali Trust gives them a voice and a support network to nurture their hopes and ambitions, which allows them the freedom to work towards an individual dream, a priceless gift in their oppressive social and economic situation.

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