The concept of receiving good fortune and opportunities from the universe and ensuring you give back is something that many people hold near and dear. It’s all about reciprocity and maintaining the balance. A few years ago, photographer Giora Dan had this thought in mind when he decided to give back to the universe by donating his time and skills to non-governmental organisations (NGOs) and aid organisations working in deprived areas outside New Zealand.
“I wanted my images and videos to help make people’s life better. The reason to aim at overseas deprived areas is that these country have no social support framework like here in New Zealand. Also, most of these countries suffer from deep and chronic corruption that stifles any help that comes from governmental institutes,” Giora explains.
One of the organisations that Giora has chosen to work with is Save the Children. He recently photographed a project for them in Bangladesh documenting Daulatdia — the biggest brothel in the world. The brothel is run on human trafficking within Bangladesh, and when Giora learned this was the location Save the Children wanted him to go to, he was a bit apprehensive. “I have a strong sense of empathy and to be ‘thrown’ into a place like this would trigger me badly. But the reality is that they don’t have a Save the Children office in Disneyland, so you go where the need is.”
Giora was provided with information around key children to photograph, but this was as far as the brief went. It was more to focus on the optimism of what has already been achieved by Save the Children, and show why Save the Children’s work was so important in this area. Apart from being given the location where the imagery was to be taken, Giora had full control over the style of the photography. “Save the Children were happy with the style they saw in my previous work and let me run with it.”
For this particular project, Giora chose to use two Sony α7R III cameras with Sony 16-35mm f/4 and 24-70mm f/2.8 lenses. The zoom ability of these lenses was very helpful when it came to getting the shots he needed in cramped and poorly lit environments. “The brothel itself is a totally different place. From a western set of eyes, it’s very depressing, sad, and filthy. It’s a shanty town with small courtyards and tiny rooms where the prostitutes live, serve their clients, and raise children.”
Giora found that when a prostitute mother serves a client, an infant child will be hidden under the bed and older children will be sent outside the room. In preschool, they have catch-up sleep sessions to make up for the disruption of sleep in their everyday lives at home. “Knowing that most of the women and girls arrive at the average age of 14 years old, and are victims of human trafficking is pretty hard to handle.”
There wasn’t a lot of time for Giora’s photography sessions inside the brothel. The visits were very brief for two reasons. Safety and maintaining the relationship Save the Children has with the brothel. Giora knew he couldn’t upset that relationship for the sake of a good frame. He says the people inside the brothel were very edgy when there was a photographer around. “After one session I stood in an alleyway and I put the camera to my eye to review what I had captured through the EVF. Immediately a small mob of grumpy men asked me to put the camera down as they thought I was shooting.”
As well as shooting in Bangladesh, Giora shot in Nepal for Save the Children. For this shoot, he was visiting villages in the low hills, and in these locations, Giora says they have a unique problem. “Nepal, a poor country, sends a lot of their young males to Malaysia and the Gulf states in Arabia to be construction workers. The villages I visited are poor and mostly depleted of men of working age. Save the Children help the family to run the farms in a more productive way with simple tech. That better-yielding farming practice in turn means there’s less intensive work, which allows children to go to school.”
While giving back to the universe, Giora also takes great pleasure and enjoyment from using his skills for good. “I really enjoy people. I sit and I talk and I learn about life that’s different to mine. I was invited into so many houses and people showed me a lot about their life along the way just because I stopped and showed interest. I like to tell stories about the people and places I see. But I am dyslexic as a brick, so photography is my medium to tell stories.”
Giora tries to load images from all of his projects to his Instagram at least twice a week, so you can keep an eye on his work by following @giora_dan_nz. You can also visit gioradan.com to view his portfolio.