Kiran Bhamra Cox is a West London-based photographer with a passion for street, documentary, lifestyle and portrait photography. Fascinated with people and places, he has travelled the world practising his craft and has worked with brands such as Nikon, National Geographic Traveller and Adidas.
Recently, Kiran created a CEWE PHOTOBOOK which captures his journey to Jharkhand, India as part of a charity project run by the organisation Asians in Football to support YUWA. YUWA, which translates as “youth” in Hindi, is a school working with girls from impoverished families, using team sports and education to build character, confidence and courage in order to ultimately break the cycle of poverty and abuse. Founded in 2009, there are now more than 300 girls playing football each day for YUWA’s teams, making it one of the largest girls’ football programmes in India, with the teams playing on unused agricultural fields and any flattened piece of ground they can find.
Following a chance meeting at a party with Nav Singh, a football scientist working for Arsenal FC, Kiran was invited to India with Nav to photograph the YUWA school and help document the trip.
“I wanted to get involved because I could see how big the project could be and how much potential there was to make a massive difference in these young girls’ lives.”
Kiran, Nav and two other team members set off last December with a plan to deliver Christmas gifts, give something back and make a real difference in the lives of the young girls at YUWA.
Kiran’s Favourite Shots from the Trip
Kiran mostly shot using prime lenses (lenses with a fixed focal length) on his Nikon D810 and Nikon Z7, as he likes to move with the subject, allowing him to get closer to the person or scene that he is photographing and in turn creating a more personal and emotional connection.
Because of the attachments formed to each shot, Kiran found it difficult to narrow down his favourite photographs from the trip, but has picked out some of his best shots below.
This photo was taken on the first training day we attended. It was shot on the Nikon Z7 with a 35mm 1.8 lens. This was around 6am and there wasn’t much light, so I was shooting at a high ISO and wide open at 1.8. I wanted to capture this young girl as I loved the juxtaposition of wearing a shawl and then having sportswear on. It really showed just how committed they all are to wake up at 4am in the cold to come and play football.
This was again taken on the Z7. The aim here was to gain some height above the girls to try and add some scope and environment to the photograph. All the grounds they play on are either in fields or just some flatland they can find around the village, and that was something that I wanted to convey with this image.
For this photograph, I again climbed above the scene to get more of the environment in. I wanted to frame the girls in a way that showed the scale and detail of the landscape around them. This was just before practise, the girls and teachers set up a small fire to keep warm until sunrise.
Here I was working on gaining more personal moments. The bus rides each day were perfect for this. They were always filled with laughter, singing and games. During the bus rides, I was always trying to work with the natural light that would pass through the bus. Sometimes it would be bright and harsh and sometimes soft when passing through trees. I tried to use this changing light to highlight faces and moments.
Whilst in India, Kiran had the idea of teaching photography to a number of the girls as his way of giving something back. Using his contacts at Nikon UK, he was able to take 10 cameras on the trip for the students to use and was astonished by the response.
“All the girls immediately took off with the cameras in sheer excitement and couldn’t wait to take as many pictures as possible.”
For Kiran, watching the students put what they had learnt into practice was one of the best experiences of the trip.
“What I thought might only last a couple of hours ended up lasting two days. We took the cameras from the school to football practice on Christmas evening, which lead to two of the girls falling from a tree while trying to get photographs, and then again boxing day morning. We were completely blown away by how much fun they were having and the amazing quality of some of their photographs.“
Kiran’s CEWE PHOTOBOOK
In order to capture the memories of his amazing trip, Kiran created an XXL Landscape CEWE PHOTOBOOK. Featuring gold highlights on the cover to add an extra layer of detail and Matte Photographic Paper to complement the style of the photography, Kiran was delighted with the finished book.
I absolutely love the book. From front to back cover it is exactly how I expected it to look. A lot of the photographs were taken in quite low light where I was forced to push my equipment to its limits, which I thought might be an issue when printing, but each of those photographs came out perfect in print. I honestly couldn’t be happier with the final outcome.
Future Goals for the YUWA Project
YUWA are currently running at full capacity but are hoping to build a new school in order to expand their work, and Asians in Football are raising money towards building the girls a football pitch so that they always have somewhere to play and practice.
Since returning from the trip, Kiran and the team have kept in touch with many of the students.
“Their progress has been simply astonishing. In just a short few months they have travelled to parts of Europe to play in football competitions, some have travelled to the UK and the US on scholarships and placements for University, and younger students are growing and becoming coaches and mentors for the new girls joining YUWA.”
The end goal is to be able to take the project into other countries to work with more young kids within the Asian community, playing football to help shed light on a culture that doesn’t garner that much media attention when it comes to the beautiful game.
If you’d like to help with the project then you can donate to the Asians in Football YUWA project or get in touch with Kiran Bhamra Cox.