Through their eyes


POSTED: Sunday, August 30, 2009

Last year, when fine-art photographer Dana Forsberg shared a desire to work on a project in India, she didn't imagine she'd be in the country less than a year later executing just that.

Forsberg had a fortuitous conversation with her yoga instructor, who suggested she approach the Sahayog Foundation, a U.S. nonprofit that supports educational needs of rural poor in the Indian state of Chhattisgarh, located in central India. Chhattisgarh is among the most undeveloped states educationally, economically and in terms of infrastructure.

The photographer wrote a proposal to Sahayog in November, and by May she was teaching 20 young women in Chhattisgarh how to shoot portraits. Within those six short months, a fundraiser and a big donation by Fuji Hawaii had provided for a camera for each of Forsberg's pupils. She was even able to leave the cameras in Chhattisgarh after her three-week course.

“;Many of the girls had never used a camera before, and they were shy at first. But they were so attentive,”; Forsberg recalls of her charges, who ranged in age from 14 to the mid-20s.





        On exhibit: Through Sept. 12

Where: Pegge Hopper Gallery, 1164 Nuuanu Ave.


Gallery hours: 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Tuesdays to Fridays and until 3 p.m. Saturdays


Call: 524-1160


Also: Meet photographer Dana Forsberg and Sahayog Foundation's Paula Stockman and Ramdas Lamb at First Friday, 5 to 9 p.m. Friday.




The photographer's work with females in Chhattisgarh was especially important because girls of poor families in the region tend to be the least educated of the population, according to Sahayog's Web site.

Instead of being sent to school, girls are often married off during puberty and have their first child at age 14 or 15. They often produce as many as eight children. The trend leads to health problems, poverty and overpopulation. Studies have concluded that the longer females remain in school, the fewer children they tend to have.

Forsberg will return to Chhattisgarh next year to teach the young women business, which, alongside the photography skills, can profoundly impact their lives.

“;One girl photographing a wedding makes three times what her father does doing hard labor,”; says Forsberg. “;This skill allows a girl to contribute to her family. It raises the status of the women. It raises the value of a daughter and the value of educating her.”;

Forsberg has been a professional fine-art photographer for 15 years. Her most recent works were part of the Contemporary Museum's “;20 Going on 21”; exhibit, and she's teaching at 'Iolani School and the University of Hawaii's Outreach College.

Her continuing work in Chhattisgarh is especially gratifying.

“;This organization supports education for girls,”; she says. “;I'm not just teaching them to see out of a camera, but business skills, too. It's a wonderful opportunity to work with youth.”;