Several times this month IFC is showing the 2005 Academy Award winning documentary Born into Brothels. The film chronicles the world of a small group of children of prostitutes in the red light district of Calcutta. Children with bleak futures, though surrounded by vibrant color and life. Photographer and filmmaker Zana Briski and Ross Kauffman enter this world, giving the children cameras, teaching them how to take photos of their world, opening their eyes to possibilities. Fortunately Briski and Kauffman are not just there to make a film and leave. They make every attempt possible to better the children's lives. The ending is bittersweet.

The reason I post this is that while watching the children learn to use their cameras, making snapshots, I couldn't help but think of vernacular photography. Though their photos end up in books and galleries, ultimately it all starts out as snapshots. Snapshots that, in some cases, will be all the memories these children have of these moments. One of the children, Avijit, who shows great promise as an artist says:
"When a camera is in my hands I can take a picture of someone who has gone away, died, or been lost. And have something that I'll be able to look at for the rest of my life"
That simple concise thought is the reason that vernacular photography is so interesting. At some point people long ago saw moments they wanted to capture, a chance to make a memory more tangible. The memories are now lost but the moment captured now takes on a new life. You'll be moved by this film and the photos the children take.

Born Into Brothels will be shown on the following dates in the month of May: 2nd, 12th, 13th, and 29th. Check IFC for times.

And for more information about the film and to support the group "Kids with Cameras" click KIDS WITH CAMERAS.  


  1. This movie was fantastic, I was glued to it from beginning to end, and wish I could adopt all of them, not that I could give them the world... Then I saw Slumdog Millionaire which does not compare really, but as a personal chef for an Indian family I hear about the reality of their world...

  2. I haven't seen "Slumdog..." but I had a feeling this one would be more emotionally satisfying even with the heartbreak at the end. I can't get these children from my mind. They're a constant now.

    Thanks for dropping in.