Camera Is Mightier Than The Gun

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TASVEER is a student founded and run youth initiative that offers free photography and cinematography services to any NGO that would like to publicize and document its work through these forms of media. Two 17 year young students living in Mumbai, Riya Behl and Aaryaman Sen, began this in 2015 and there are now teams all over India. The Founders shared their experience to me in an exclusive interview.

You’re just in your teens, how did this Do-good side happen and why?
Often through mainstream media, we only hear about people doing good or making a difference in the world by donating large sums of money to a cause. So as teenagers, we’re made to believe our contribution to helping someone should ideally be a monetary one and so this Do-good side can be achieved only when we’re much older. But we refused to believe this was the only worthwhile contribution we could make. So, we put time is more precious than money into practice. After all, everyone of any age has 24 hours in a day. And so, by providing our time to NGOs and our skill of photography and cinematography, we realized we could make a difference. This realization marked the beginning of our do-good side.

When we reach our teens, we’re brimming with dreams and ambition to change the world but we don’t know where to start. This do-good side happened when we decided to start somewhere despite people saying we’re too young. Pen is mightier than the sword, camera is mightier than the gun!

How did TASVEER come into existence?
About a year ago, my school newspaper asked me to photograph a social project wherein grade 11 students taught peons and other support staff rudimentary English and Computer Applications in an attempt to improve their ability to understand their work. The assignment was gratifying in a manner unlike anything I had ever done before. Contrary to my expectations, the employees were thrilled to be in front of a camera. For ninety minutes, they were stars of a show, grasping concept after concept with astounding ease and sneaking poses in for me in between. It was an awe-inspiring display of optimism and adaptability in the face of harsh conditions, the first of many I would have the privilege of witnessing. Later that night, I relayed an account of this to Riya, and in the following week, we founded TASVEER.

What is your mission?
Our aim is to two-fold: Firstly, to offer high-quality photographs and video to NGOs for free. Our world is powered by social media and imagery plays a pivotal role in showcasing the work of these organizations. So, we hope to help NGOs strengthen their on-line visibility. Secondly, a majority of our audience on Facebook right now is teenagers. We want to expose teenagers to a wide spectrum of community work and encourage them to be part of different NGO initiatives. We believe people of any age can make a difference if they are willing to provide their time.

Describe the scope of your service?
Our journey has been phenomenal. It has made us look at photography as not only an artistic medium but also an opportunity for us to contribute to our community by telling the stories that really matter. We have three teams in these cities, each comprised of 20-30 enthusiastic, talented photographers and cinematographers working together for a cause. Lately, we have also embraced the task of creating and fostering socially impactful video content.

How many volunteers serve through TASVEER at the moment? How can someone join?
Around 80, all three cities combined. They vary from 14-20 years of age and majority of us don’t know each other, our common cause has brought us together. It’s a very simple process to join us. Contact us from our social media presence.

What are the challenges you face?
We’re restricted to some extent by our will to maintain our integrity as a student-run initiative. On occasion, we aren’t able to offer our services to those requesting them due to their timings clashing with school hours, extracurricular activities or exams. However, we work extremely hard with a group of incredibly dedicated people to make sure these occasions are kept to a minimum.

What is your definition of youth?
Youth is the capacity and desire to make mistakes; to keep getting better; to keep moving forward. As soon as we stop and settle down, I think youth ceases to exist.

What is your message for youth?
If you have an idea, stick with it. Start small but work on it. And keep working, keep innovating, keep creating. Our initiative began with just two people. It’s OK if you don’t get that many Facebook likes or Instagram followers to validate this idea. The only validation you need is your belief. So, believe in your capability to make this idea a reality and don’t let anyone tell you your age can stop you from helping someone. You’ll soon find you have a whole army of friends on the Internet who will provide unwavering support and endless knowledge. Use these resources to network and reach out to people who share similar beliefs.

Never before have we had the opportunity to be so connected around the world. Use this. Together you are stronger. Together, what began as a small, fleeting idea is now much more.

I salute the spirit of these young students who are changing the face of youth and the nation. I believe that through these little acts of kindness and selfless compassion we can create a wonderful world for ourselves, and the generations to come.

Thank you very much!

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