Koster Expands Awareness Tours

koster-2.jpgAward winning Seattle photographer Amanda Koster has received significant press attention for her multimedia social awareness tours she has led through India and many parts of the developing world, including articles in the Chicago Tribune and Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The last India tour has also received more after the fact attention as participants have had their photographs in consecutive exhibits over the last several months, some participant photographs appeared in a book about India’s street children, and one participant will be exhibiting photographs from the tour at the Indian Embassy in Washington D.C.

Koster is not resting on her laurels, however. Salaam Garage International Trips, the social awareness tour organization she founded, begins its next India tour on September 25, and this time there will be even greater access for participants into the lives of ordinary citizens and what they deal with in their lives. The tour will again partner with Vatsalya, a non-government organization (NGO) that takes care of Indian street orphans and provides microfinance for women.

Many of the projects and events planned for this trip will allow partipants to get a unique, first-hand look at the stories and backgrounds of some of the people Vatsalya works with. For instance, there is the story of Aakash, who came to Vatsalya at the age of 14 months, almost dead from Tuberculosis. Finally, after 180 injections, multiple blood transfusions and lots of care, he is a healthy and active five year old.

Participants will get to see the work of Sita and Gita, two rural women who worked with Vatsalya to create and grow Durga, a women’s empowerment group that saves money and makes semi-precious jewelry as a business. Profits are being saved for the creation of a free woman’s health facility.

They will also get to see the work of Vatalya’s mobile van for street children, which conducts health and hygiene drives, encourages children to go to school, and in the case of orphaned or abandoned children, looks for candidates to take in.

In addition to the extraordinary tour work, Koster has also moved forward with the development of a book which displays her social documentary photographs. The book, which is being published by Bennett and Hastings in September, is both a call to action for media makers to use independent media and partner with non-profits to bring about positive, societal change, as well as an intimate look into Koster’s life and work through the publication of her journals and photographs. Koster will do a book signing and lecture event in Seattle on September 18 at Seattle Central Community College from 6:00-8pm.

Conscious Choice Magazine has also written about Koster’s efforts. Much of the article appear below.

Have Cause, Will Travel

By Daysha Eaton

According to the images in your average luxury travel glossy, India is all brightly colored saris, ancient temples and dramatic landscapes. The India of newspaper headlines, on the other hand, paints a bleaker picture: one of begging, pollution and bombings. But what of the real faces, places and lives in between?

Enter Salaam Garage. Created by Seattle photographer, Amanda Koster, Salaam Garage, offers trips focused on photographing the work of NGOs (non-governmental organizations). It unites writers, photographers, documentarians and other media makers with a common goal: to share the untold stories of real people in the developing world.

“I want to infiltrate everything with positive stories,” says Koster, who led the first SG trip to Jaipur, in northwest India, this past fall. “Through my career I’ve just seen enough negativity. We know it’s there, we know it’s happening — but who is surviving and what does that look like?”

Danielle Williams, a researcher for National Geographic Television, accompanied Koster on SG’s maiden voyage. “I’d had a lot of people tell me, ‘prepare yourself — you’re going to see a lot of suffering and you are going to feel guilty,’” Williams recounts. “[But it] was really the exact opposite.” Williams attributes this difference to Koster. “She took us to the less seen places and got us inside the culture to see the day-to-day lives of the real people there.”

Now, Williams volunteers with a nonprofit that helps street children living with HIV in India. Her photos, along with the rest of the group’s will be on display at Seattle galleries and coffeehouses through June, with a percentage of all photo sales going to Vatsalya, the NGO which served as the first photo shoot destination. A fresh group of media makers will return there next September, with another trip to Vietnam in March 2009. Koster says that seeing people like Danielle gain a new perspective on the world is why she leads the trips. “It’s like throwing a stone into a pond and just watching the ripples.”

To see compelling video footage of Koster’s work, visit http://vimeo.com/1020201.

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