The Heart Prints photography project was started in 2006 when I visited Vengadampatty to complete a two month voluntary placement with my wife Cassie. I taught photography to the 30 children there who are cared for by TRUST. The children were given disposable cameras and asked to photograph the things that were most important to them. I wanted to give the children an opportunity to express themselves using a new and exciting medium. I wanted them to have fun, but also to take the project seriously. I wanted to encourage their sense of discovery by asking them to think about the things that mattered to them. And I hoped that the project in some small way would be a therapeutic exercise to help them through their massive personal traumas. They produced remarkable images of their home, their friends and their possessions.
The first Heart Prints exhibition was held in the TRUST Children Home on 23 July 2006. Since then more children have been taken in by TRUST and last year my good friend Nic Pennington visited Vengadampatty to carry on the work of Heart Prints, holding a second project with another successful exhibition in the Children's Home. Once more the children produced stunning pictures which reflect what they value in their world.
As adults, we sometimes forget how to see the world with the innocence of a child’s eye. What may appear as nothing of importance to you or I might be considered incredible to a child. These children, many of whom are orphans from the Boxing Day December 2004 Tsunami, do not have a great deal to call their own, yet this project has allowed them to recognise more clearly what really matters in life: the people they love, their friends and the security of their home. I believe that we can also learn a lot about our own values from the children and their photographs.
In July 2011, Nic and myself, with the help of our friends held an exhibition and auction of the children's photographs at First Option studio in London to coincide with Thirumaran's first visit to the UK. The show was a huge success and we raised around £5500 for TRUST. It was also a great opportunity for supporters of TRUST to come together in one place, meet Thirumaran and show their support. Watch http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s-XG_eLP3ZU
Nic and I don’t want the project to end with this exhibition! We want to nurture and encourage the confidence and joy this project has given to these children. We aim to continue to support the great work TRUST does through exhibiting the photographs and selling prints and one day to buy the children enough permanent cameras and equipment so that they can maintain their interest and continue expressing themselves through photography. These children have given us a glimpse of what is in their hearts and we want to help them to be able to continue to do so for many years to come.
You can support us by buying prints of the children's photographs which you can view here http://www.flickr.com/photos/21926443@N07/sets/72157627280187937/
Nic and I have also written and produced books about the project which we aim to bring together as one for publication. If you feel you can help us in any way with regards to publishing our book or in any other way please do not hesitate to contact us.
Peace and love, Jago Neal