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Concept and Practice

The Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia
Presented by The Barefoot College in Tilonia, Rajasthan, India
11 April – 17 June 2005

The opening of the Barefoot Photographers of Tilonia exhibition at the Brunei Gallery at the Schoolof Oriental and African Studies in London, marks the arrival of a unique exhibition capturing imagesof lives in Tilonia, a small village in the middle of the Rajasthan desert 400 miles South West of New Delhi.

Tilonia is a very small village in the middle of the Rajasthan desert 400 miles South West of New Delhi, Barefoot College was founded here in 1971.

Following Gandhi's central belief that the knowledge, skills and wisdom found in villages should be used for their own development before getting skills from outside the first Barefoot College was established.

The College provides training and education to men and women from the surrounding villages with skills to take back to their communities such as improving agriculture and water supply and to work as doctors, teachers or engineers. The College has also established a network of night schools for children to provide an education to those who are unable to attend school normally in more rural areas.

The exhibition contains some of the results of a photographic documentary of all of the College's activities during the past 34 years.

Men and women were given simple cameras, suddenly becoming "one-day photographers" and documenting a day in the life of Tilonia, from their own perspective. Over the years an archive of 100,000 black and white and colour, negatives and slides, has been compiled. From this rich reserve an exhibition created and first shown in UNESCO Paris in early 2000.

The result of this photo-documentation afford a rare insight into the original nature of photography, representing a wealth of authentic photographic documentation conducted by anonomous, untrained rural photographers.

Now updated for 2005, the photo-documentation is on display in London for the summer and affordsa rare insight into the original nature of photography, representing a wealth of authenticphotographic documentation conducted by anonymous, untrained rural photographers.

Barefoot College founder, Bunker Roy, explains "Men and women were given simple cameras,suddenly becoming 'one-day photographers' and documenting a day in the life of Tilonia,from their own perspective. Their images illustrate the work of the Barefoot College, which is unique in that illiterate and semi-literate rural poor men and women are trained in 6 monthsto be "barefoot" solar and water engineers, teachers, doctors communicators and architects.Fundamentally the basis for the Barefoot College is a belief that there is a difference between literacy and education and the barefoot photographers exhibition seeks to illustrate this"