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This Mumbai photographer teaches kids in sign language - My Take by Rajen Nair

November 25, 2017

In My Take, photographer Rajen Nair, who teaches photography to children who are deaf and undergoing treatment for cancer, talks about what led him to start this initiative.

I used to be a businessman until 2000 when I had a surgery that left me deaf and with tinnitus, a condition of non-stop ringing in the operated ear.

Hearing loss leads to new avataar as photographer

I gave up my business in computers and decided to reinvent myself by doing a course in journalism and photography. My photographs started receiving a lot of appreciation and I felt that this new talent may be related to my deafness.

I realised that maybe, the deaf can become very good photographers.

I started conducting weekend classes at the Sanskardham Vidyalaya for deaf children in Mumbai. Initially, the response was not so good. One day, in frustration, I told them how far I travelled with all my cameras to teach them. They raised their hands and said 'thank you' in sign language. That was very touching and after that they became attentive.

Holds outdoor trips for street photography

I take them on outdoor trips in groups of 25-30 for street photography. This is actually very challenging as the photos have to be taken very quickly and quietly without disturbing the subject. This offers them chances for greater creativity and to highlight social issues. I started a Facebook page where they could post their pictures.

In the last eight years, I have taught over 500 students and they are all on WhatsApp groups. I started a Facebook page where they could post their pictures and this has 2400 members, which includes deaf students, children with disabilities as well as artists from around the world.

I learned Indian Sign Language to communicate with my students. My work gives me great joy and many people have donated equipment, which has helped a lot.

My deaf students say photography has given them a purpose and led them to meet new people and travel. Some want to become professional photographers so they can earn a living.

This is the best reward for what I hope to do for a long time to come.

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