Shiree Beckwith-Funk | Bangalore, India

Given an assignment in the slums, my mind was full of curiosity. We traveled off the busy highway in Bangalore onto a narrow street with many turns. The neighborhood we stopped in was poor but the people lived in homes, not tents. I was eager to take the walk that was necessary to get to the school I would be photographing. I must experience life different than my own. It is like a current of force running through me. My head is driven to explore, and my feet start moving, leaving minimal time for my mind to process fear and doubt. The people stared at me, as I'm a tall, middle aged, white woman. They always stare no matter where I go in India, I’m used to it. I look, smile, gesture for a picture, nod, and say ‘thank you’ with my hand on my heart. I gently smile the entire time and they know I’m happy to be there. We arrive at the school, a three story narrow building. The stairs are cramped as we go up to the second floor classrooms. It is hot inside, and the walls are dirty and worn with age. The space is full of little children in two cramped rooms. They are learning their lessons and working hard. Everyone one of them is adorable. I feel pinch of an ache inside as I care so much and want them to be okay. In that moment those children are in the best place they can be. At lunch time they go to the third floor and sit in three rows on thin mats and receive their food. Afterwards I slowly stroll through the neighborhood once again to capture more life. It is as rustic as living can be while living under a roof with walls.