The number of words that a picture is worth rises dramatically when it is that
of a child smiling out of the sheer pleasure of having snatched normalcy from
the jaws of lifelong labor. And that is what makes this photo exhibition by Purna
Chandra Rao such a joy to behold. The handsome photography brings to light the
commendable work carried out by the M V Foundation. The Foundation, started and
carried out by V Shanta, Professor at the University of Hyderabad, concentrates
upon the child laborers of Andhra Pradesh, especially girls.
The exhibition is a prodigious display that captures the delights of a camp. Excellent conceptualization portrays innumerable aspects where joyous children pose for Rao's camera, minus inhibition or coyness. A drama unfolds before the eye but one can hardly reckon any planned performance. The reality of emotional expression - Joy - is so explicitly captured by the frame that it can hardly be categorized as a drama.
Holding his slate high with the 'akshara' (alphabet), an achiever who could successfully extricate himself from the job of buffalo tending to holding the chalk in his hand is frozen excellently by one of the visuals. Then there are girls beaming brightly into the spectator's eye, reveling in their recently acquired knowledge. Photographs of teachers with pupils, classes in progress, kids in the fields of play and a morning in the camp, all with captions articulated by the models themselves, undeniably splash the "Joy of Learning".
The exhibition as such is the documentation of a positive development. But if
looked at critically, it is a backlash upon the genre of coffee table photography
that consciously thrives upon poverty as a penchant subject. Purna Chandra Rao,
of the Center for Conceptual Media, Ethnic Art Center, Hyderabad, who is basically
an activist and a theater person, has always looked for a cause. And the cause
has always been the plight of the Telangana people. In "Joy of Learning" he does
not stir you through a situation, but rather stimulates you through the depiction
of a successful experiment of someone in attaining a cause.
Smarajit Ray, IAS, Principal Secretary, Department of Rural Development, Government of A P, inaugurated the exhibition, and Mme Marie-Christine de Rochemonteix, an ardent French educationist and founder of Marica Educational Society, was the Guest of Honor.