For the last week or so I’ve felt like a little kid waiting for Christmas, knowing that I’ve got something really special to unwrap. Funnily enough I’m lucky enough to start unwrapping on my birthday, so it’s like Christmas, birthday, pay day all rolled into one.
The occasion is the launch of a multimedia documentary project, “Outcastes – a Village in Odisha, India”, which I think I can safely say is the most complete and substantial creative project I’ve ever done. But I must first give immediate credit to Finnish photographer and all-round multimedia whizz kid Kari Kuukka, for his skills, hard work and patience in putting this together as part of his DocImages website. Neither of us have earned a penny from this, and although it’s going to be a fantastic calling card for our separate and combined talents we don’t stand to earn anything from it in the future either, not directly in any case. So this is a true labour of love.
The village in question is a Dalit, that is, so-called Untouchable community in the east of India, not far from the Bay of Bengal, about a half day drive south from Kolkata. I have been visiting the place on several occasions over the last few years as a member of a Finnish NGO and charity called Tikau Share which is carrying out various development programmes there with the aim of increasing the self-sufficiency of the deprived and isolated villagers. The newly refreshed NGO website gives all the details of what’s going on: www.tikaushare.org
I’ve been taking advantage of my visits to get to know the characters in the village and taking the opportunity to acquire a body of photography from a place that is totally removed from daily Western life. The priorities here are uncomplicated by technology and unrealistic expectation, beyond earning enough to acquire food for the family and grappling with annual challenges such as mending the roofs and sweeping away the flood water after each monsoon.
I have known Kari for years, and when I heard that he was looking for stories to tell on his DocImages site, I saw my chance of a way to combine the elements of the village story and tell it to the outside world. Luckily he saw it too. Kari sees multimedia – incorporating audiovisual, interactive elements such as video, time lapses, 360 degree panoramas, combined with traditional good writing and photography – as pointing the way for the future of journalism. I have been very fortunate to benefit from his enthusiasm and professional skill. It’s been a wonderful crash course in multimedia, and an eye-opener as to how new media can be used in creative and journalistic projects – and not, as is often the case in our industry, used as an excuse for cutting costs and casting talent aside.
I’d love you to browse through the whole project. It has two versions, a ‘universal’ version that can be browsed on computers and devices of all kinds, and an Apple iPad version best viewed using an app downloaded from the App Store. If you feel so inclined, having made your ‘virtual visit’ to the village, you might feel like making a donation to our charity – the web site at www.tikaushare.org makes it easy for you to do this, and even very small contributions are welcome.
Finally, thanks again to Kari, to my friends at Tikau Share in Finland, and to the villagers in India for their warm hospitality and permission to portray their homes and lives in this way to the outside world.