Help Portrait: Gogo’s that give back.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

I wrote about my first experience with Help Portrait not too long ago. Yesterday I went back for more, first at a nursery school and then the Ikageng Itireleng AIDS Ministry in Orlando West, Soweto. I had a (photographically) educational experience shooting children during my first Help Portrait shoot, and this time I got to click a bunch of lovely, loud-mouthed, sweet, and all around badass group of grandmas (called gogo’s in many RSA languages). The Ikageng Itireleng programme seeks to look after and support 1,500 orphan-headed households in Soweto who are left parentless because of HIV-AIDS by providing counselling, home-based care, school fees, supplies, electricity, and psycho-social health through a network of volunteers and professional support.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

These gogo’s care for orphaned children through Ikageng and we came to their support group to shoot them. It was such a pleasure to be there- while we were setting up they did their singing, dancing, praying, and the best part: gogo aerobics. These grannys took their exercises quite seriously, calling out anyone who wasn’t putting in full effort, and taking pleasure in the cameras that were there to document.

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love
If you feel like helping out financially (which you can do through Ikageng’s website) and want reassurance about where your money would go, you can rest assured that  it will be in good hands as corporations such as McKinsey vet, help and aid this organization, and it is a member of betterplace.org which strives for transparency and accountability in aid for small, lesser-known organizations . If you live in Jozi, you could also donate your time by volunteering at a creche or tutoring math, for instance (again through their website).

*As per usual, these images are not the images that will be returned to the gogo’s, but are my outtakes.

My First Help-Portrait Experience

Land of Nams: living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love.

So, my friend Karen is constantly preaching the gospel of Help Portrait. I like the organization because it doesn’t overreach in its stated goals or self-importance (i.e. only a minimum amount of this and this type of crap). Its mission is fairly straightforward: Find a person who wouldn’t normally be able to afford a professional portrait. Take her picture. Process it and print it out. Give her her portrait.

Land Of Nams: Living in Johannesburg, exploring the world, documenting the things I love

For my first time we trekked to two nursery schools, one in a neighborhood called Hillbrow and one in a township called Diepsloot (like most things in RSA both have interesting/depressing pre and post apartheid histories). I was timid to join because I was afraid I would take sub-standard portraits. But after initially constantly seeking reassurance from Karen and Nathalie about aperture settings and good lighting like a panicky second grader, I got into a groove and was able to take some decent shots.

Obviously, the best part (besides that I now know how to take a portrait of someone ) is the kids. Kids are universally cute and fill your heart with joy. Kids are exponentially more cute and fill your heart with more joy when you are not in charge of disciplining them. They also love mugging for a camera. Check out these little mamas.

editing credit: Karen Lim

If you have some time, whether you are an amazing photographer or are just an omgpanicky novice like me you could spend a few hours doing Help Portrait…You’ll learn a lot and/or provide some happy people with a bangin’ portrait.  If you live in Jozi, you are looking for Ubuntu Help Portrait. If you don’t, google your local chapter or make it yourself if you’re feeling inspired or superhuman.

Land of Nams: Living in Johannesburg, Exploring the world, Documenting the things I love.

photo credit: Karen Lim

Land of Nams: Living in Johannesburg, Exploring the world, Documenting the things I love

photo credit: Karen Lim

ps. these are my outtakes since we are not to post portraits we are giving.

Whale Watching in Hermanus

hermanus, south africa, namrata singh

  Today I am going to try and experiment with proper grammar and punctuation. This is because my lovely mother-in-law is regularly reading my blog and now I am quite ashamed of my lack of capitalizations. Since we travelled to Cape Town for P’s work and he was occupied during the weekdays,  I got to meet up with my friend Heather and her friend from home to go whale watching. We hitched up her rental with a Garmin and were off to Hermanus, a small city in the Western Cape that is a hot bed to Southern Right Whales in the spring.  I have seen whales migrating from afar in Hawaii, but here it was completely different experience. The water is like fish soup- teeming with whales, dolphins, seals, and even sharks (which we did not see from the land). P mentioned that Alaskan waters give him the same feeling, like you can seemingly reach out from the boat and just touch a magnificent fish.

southern right whale, hermanus, namrata singh Since I did not have my camera ready for the whale tail water slaps, I have about 200 pictures like this. You can see the white callosities on his/her face due to whale lice (cyamides). These magnificent creatures grow between 36 and 59 feet and weigh up to 91 tons. Unfortunately we did not see any breeching, but not for a lack of trying. We had our camera lenses at the ready but alas, it wasn’t meant to be.

seal in hermanus, namrata singh This little guy entertained the whale watchers during whale lulls by being omgadorable!

dassie rat in hermanus, namrata singh Also competing for attention was the rock hyrax. They were scurrying around and like the seals, they seemed to be completely aware of their adorableness. But even they had to stop and stare when the whales made their appearances.

dassie rat, hermans, namrata singh

After lunch we made a stop at the shops and galleries (where I got some more material for Fashion Fridays) and had become expert whale watchers. If you are not good at spotting the whales you needn’t worry as Hermanus has a Whale Crier (who I stupidly did not take a picture of). He is supposed to blow on kelp every time he sees a whale, but he has graduated to a Vuvezela which is just as effective but not as romantic. You also needn’t go out on a boat to watch the whales, they are plenty visible from the land. Southern Right Whales arrive in Walker Bay (where Hermanus is) in May and trail off in November.

hermanus, south africa, namrata singh

Spending my days safariing, whale watching, and lunching with my friends makes getting a job the last thing on my mind. Who knew that Namrata Singh would enjoy being a housewife? I don’t intend to keep going this way for too long, but I figure that a few months to enjoy our new country is a privilege that I should take advantage of. Besides, for a grown-ass-woman learning to allow someone else to take care of you for a while is a social/emotional skill all on its own.

      I am very excited because tomorrow I am shooting for Ubuntu Help Portrait (under the encouragement and guidance of my friend Bing) which is an organization which aims to shoot, edit, and print portraits for kids who have never had a picture of themselves. I’ll tell you more about the organization and why I appreciate the mission when I post about it.