I've been involved in community mobilization for the last ten years, starting with organizing through the Chinmaya Organization for Rural Development in South India. My global storytelling became incorporated into my studies in social psychology and documentary photography at Carnegie Mellon University, where I completed an ethnographic documentary project on Tamil Nadu, India—the area native to my family. I presented this work through a TEDxCMU talk, Photographs as Portals to Sensitivity, and exhibitions at venues like the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust, Carnegie Music Hall, and Harvard University.
Looking for a way to expand on the impact of narratives, I transitioned to a Fellowship through the Foundation for Sustainable Development in Kenya and Uganda, where I trained leaders of local nonprofits on sustainable proposal development and media-based advocacy strategies. Eager to contrast this on-the-ground experience with experience at headquarters, I subsequently worked for the Bill & Melinda Gates Institute of Population and Reproductive Health on Melinda Gates' flagship women's health and empowerment project that serves urban slums of Asia and Africa, where I contributed towards the multimedia storytelling initiative of this Gates project. I also taught portraiture to inner-city Baltimore adolescents through the Baltimore Youth Film Arts at the Johns Hopkins University Film and Media Studies Program.
I'm now based in New York City, examining the role of visual narratives as a decolonization methodology through at Columbia University on a merit scholarship for master's degree in Sociocultural Anthropology. I'm continuing my interdisciplinary research, this time using it to scale up my belief in the power of social change through narratives via my own social enterprise: Empact.
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A story that inspired me
The girl pictured to the left, Sathya, is younger than myself. During the first time that I met her, she walked me through her village and told me about its school, temple, and traditions. She later told me with uneasiness about how her family was speaking of marrying her off soon. When I asked her what she would want to do instead if she had the choice, she said that she would want to do what I was doing — she would want to explore the world and go on an adventure.
Through conversations and experiences like this that my photography work has taken me through, I have realized that I am living a truly gifted life. I not only have been able to discover what my strengths and aspirations are but I also have the means to utilize them to give back to the world. It is with this passion and sincerity that I embark on my next steps. I am integrating documentary photography and social entrepreneurship to expand boundaries and be an impactful and compassionate global leader.
Sathya lives near my grandparents in Tamil Nadu and I try to visit her when I visit them. The most recent was in 2016 when she told me, gladly, that she wasn't yet married.