The Delwara Project

2 Year long project breaks barriers between communities by reaching out to the
village youth using photography. The Delwara Project is one of PPT’s most
successful and engaging outreach programs.

The Delwara Project

Engaging Rural Youth through Photography

Delwara, (dist. Rajsamand, Rajasthan) is neither town nor village, but something in between. It lies in hilly Aravalli country, surrounded by fields and groves of acacia and neem through which peacocks call. In 2006, PPT in collaboration with National Foundation for India and Seva Mandir undertook a first of its kind photography workshop for youths in Delwara. About 80 enthusiastic youths from Delwara and its neighbouring villages participated in the workshops. Over a period of 18 months the participants shot more than 200 film rolls consisting of approximately 7500 photographs.
An Indian Village presents anyone with the perfect set of conditions and settings to work on community building. Most of them are divided in sections according to class, caste and religion. Eveen though they occupy the same physical space and surrounding, most of these sections never mingle. NFI and Sevamandir have done extraordinary work in such communities building bridges and challenging class and gender norms in small villages.
Photography Workshops were intiated with the youth of the village to create an atmosphere of community learning and participation. Following were the objectives:

Organize photography workshops for young persons of Delwara to identify and look more deeply and reflect into their social and environmental surroundings.


To help the youth learn photographic skills and facilitate them with the capability and aptitude to pursue journalism s a means of livelihood.


To pursue partnership with the local and regional print media by publishing photographs captured by the participants.

For the first time in the village, Boys and Girls stood as equals in a space learning and interacting with each other. This was also the first hurdle. After a few sessions, the elders in the village stopped sending their children to the workshops citing deviation from trraditional values. Boys and Girls just could not learn together. Taking it up as a challenge, Team PPT, NFI and Sevamandir did door to door visits, interacting with locals and informing them aout how these workshops would benefit the youth in the long term. This also helped the team build a stronger raeltionship with the community. Grradually, Girls and Boys from the village joined the workshops and healthy no. of participants were now part of the sessions.
The second largest hurdle was that of religion and caste. Having been neighbours in close proximity for so long, communities (Hindus, Muslims, others) did not interact with each other. In the workshops, youth from all communities interacted and bonded over the shared love for their own village in the process of photography and learning. Many pre-concieved notions were eliminated in this process thus building bridges between communities. The Youth is an effective medium to exact social change in smaller settlements.

I was scared of being criticized by the community for taking photographs in public places. I also received lots of criticism. Through photography, I have started noticing, looking at my family more. My power of observation has increased. I overcame the fear of taking photo in public places. Initially I would go to the market to take photos but would leave without taking the photo. – Mamata, Workshop Participant

The work shop conducted by Sudharak, NFI and Seva Mandir was extremely useful and socially transformative. It was fraught with challenges also. Having boys and girls together and people of different background together led to friction. Besides providing basic skills regarding photography the workshop was designed to create awareness among the young participants about the diversity within Delwara. It was through photography projects that the young knew the lives and contexts of people they would not normally have interactions with. Hindu youth learned about Muslim families/neighbourhoods/places of worship and vice versa. The able learned about differently abled individuals. The destitute and homeless worked with the less deprived.
Having Sudharak to provide instruction in the photographic skills with a focus on the society was the high point. The sustained presence of Seva Mandir was essential to success of the project. The outcome was a wonderful photo exhibition, but more importantly the beginning of empathetic understanding among the youth of “otherness of others” in a multi-caste and multi-religious community qasba township.

Ajay Singh Mehta

CEO, Seva Mandir

In a surprise that was not seen coming, the Photography Workshops which were meant to be a medium for community participation had also now turned into a potential opportunity for the youth to earn a living. Photography could also sustain their families if they took it up and also help them travel and experience the country. The workshops were now also intensive photography sessions with emphasis on technical knowldege and other aspects. Many of the participants from the workshop continued with photography as a mode of earning and have started business and some have also traveled to Mumbai to learn and work with Team PPT.

“Before the workshop I had an interest in photography but that workshop changed everything because that gave me exposer. After the workshop, sir gave me confidence and I came to Mumbai and worked with Time of India as freelancer.”

Pradeep Paliwal

Workshop Particpant, Photographer
The 18 month long workshop sessions culminated in a grand exhibition right in the heeart of thee village. Photos by the participants were exhibited on the walls of houses and the village for the day had become a living art insttallation. Participants and villagers spoke about their experiences and hopes for more inclusive future in delwara.
Images creaeted by the participants in the year long workshop were an intimate reflection of their own surroundings and their village. In the thousands of images that were shot, a portrait of a community was built that would help the people there understand each other better and look the lives of their neighbours and themselves through a different context and frame.
The Delwara Project and its experiences formed the PPT’s core ideas and mission. The Project which was aimed to be a community building effort turned into a transformative model with long term social changes and new opportunites and this model has been replicated in many of PPT’s other projects. The power of the camera had been truly realised in the small village of Delwara.
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