Javier Arcenillas – Jisu Ashram

Jisu Ashram

Jisu Ashram

Only a hundred miles from Kolkata, but immersed in a jungle in which time seems to stand still, a Jesuit missionary group has expanded the meaning of being called “parents”.

In its mission “Jisu Ashram” hosts over a hundred children from families of agriculturists of lower castes. There are a thousand children and parents to represent the only hope for the future of a new generation of young Indians who are suffering, with concealed virulence, an abrupt transition to the modern era, the era of big cities, which work in the field and differ little from slavery.




Humanist. Freelance photographer, member of Gea Photowords.

He develops humanitarian essays where the main characters are integrated in societies that border and set upon any reason or human right in a world that becomes increasingly more and more indifferent.

He is a psychologist at the Complutense University of Madrid. He has won several international prizes, including The Arts Press Award, Kodak Young Photographer, European Social Fund Grant, Euro Press of Fujifilm, Make History, UNICEF, SONY WPY, Fotoevidence POYI.

Currently he is carrying out new ideas in parallel with traditional journalism to spread his projects, and he is making up Audiovisual Projects with diplomatic work.


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Javier Arcenillas


16 Responses to “Javier Arcenillas – Jisu Ashram”

  • Somewhat orchestrated and staged

  • Yes I can see what Imants means, although it doesn’t bother me much. I was reminded straight away of Pep Bonet’s work on the blind in Africa which was all shot in BW. The same kind of framing, short depth of field and play with light and shadow.

  • Agree with Paul re Pep Bonet and the rest. Like this a lot.

  • Some nice pictures in this, and also some lovely ones sprinkled through the essays on your website.
    I do get a feeling of what Imants says in a lot of the imagery; not staged as such, but maybe set up or at least aware that a frame is about to be made.
    But whether it is or is not the case, why does that question(or its outcome) bother some of us??



    PS you seem to be getting great access to situations.

  • Btw just wanted to point out I really enjoyed the essay.

  • I have no problem with these images being staged, to whatever small extent they may be. My problem is that I see no purpose to the effort. No story being told. Beyond the dramatic poses or resilience or despair, I just see normal looking kids doing normal kid things. They go to school. They go to church. They play soccer. What’s the big deal?

    The statement doesn’t help. It reads like someone took all the words that ever appeared in a Sally Struthers ad and fed them into Lorem Ipsum. But from what I can infer, the big deal is that these kids’ parents have a hard life and for some reason have sent them to a Catholic School. Is the Catholic school a good thing? Does it give them a better chance at life than the government school? Or is it some kind of nefarious cultural colonialism? Or worse yet given that it is a Catholic institution, some kind of child molestation conspiracy? Who knows? You can’t tell from the photos. You can’t tell from the text. And this kind of story cries out for quality writing. Photos alone just can’t tell the tale. These don’t, at any rate.

    The photo skills demonstrated are impressive. Great light and composition throughout. And it’s not true that I see no purpose in this particular piece. I trust the ethics and motivations of this photographer. I’m sure that he is trying to do good in this world. But in general when I see work of this sort — technically great work created from images of poor people in the less developed world — it makes me feel uneasy. The stated purpose is always to bring attention to the plight of these unfortunates, to shine light on their misfortunes and hopefully motivate someone to help. And on rare occasions that works. But in the great majority of cases, one is lucky to get a bunch of other photographers to look at the work and the most likely outcome of a job well done is that they will ooh and aah over the photographs. And I fear sometimes that that is the real purpose, just to get a huff of those oohs and aahs. The kids and the environment being little more than models and sets for some rich kid’s learning experience. Exploiting or trivializing the poor for a ticket to fame or at least a good gallery opening or contest prize.

    Again, I trust that’s not the case here, but the quality of the photos in contrast to the quality of the text on one end of the spectrum, and more importantly, the story, on the other; make me uneasy. So hopefully, the working in parallel with traditional journalism (though I’d shoot higher on the literary scale) will help a lot, and making it an A/V project could work to better tell the story as well. I genuinely admire motivated people who put in the effort to do good in the world and the photography itself is very impressive.

    Considering all those honors and awards, you certainly don’t need career advice from the likes of me, but nevertheless, I think you’d be well-served by studying great literary storytelling. For example, those people didn’t virtually enslave themselves. And it wasn’t some kind of natural disaster. Bad guys make stories more interesting. There are bad guys in this story. Why don’t you tell us about them, too? You really can’t understand one without the other.

  • Some nice interesting images from this and the last two stories. All contain worthy images. I just can’t get past the idea that they are best understood by the Burn audience rather than the rest of the world. But hey, isn’t that what this is about? I always feel better about the future of still images when I visit Burnlandia! Thank you Harvey and best wishes to the contributing artists.

  • Not sure about the Basic rules of conduct for a photographer on Javier’s site is a bit on the “Though shall not side” Maybe that is where I have a problem with this essay that seems to reflect what he writes there

  • The kind of photos everyone needs to be exposed to. A bit of truth about the world. Unfortunately, Rolex doesn’t want photos like this detracting from their ads in magazines.

  • Jim, you got it right. There is truth in every photo. Each photo is superbly done and crafted. Many fine works are completely orchestrated and staged, from Mozart’s Requiem to all the work of Richard Avedon. They do not necessarily seem to tell the story as described in the statement. Somehow, as fine as each photo is, they do not necessarily seem to come together in the cohesive unit described in the statement. Maybe this would not bother me, but for the statement.

  • Andrew Edward Smith

    I found that the very first image summed up the story, and the rest of the images filled in the blanks.
    Truly an original visual voice.

  • I attended a Javier workshop some years ago. For him aesthetics was important, but more important was the story behind the photos, how to tell it. It´s true some of these pictures are staged, but I think another important photographers do that, or mix them with another not staged. In our hand is to consider if this is a good way or not for doing an essay, or if we like the photos or not. Personally I prefer not to stage them, but if they are portraits, why not? I think these pictures are very shocking. I like them. It´s not my favourite work, but I like it.
    And about Pep Bonet, Javier was the person who show us in that workshop the Blind Faith essay of Bonet, when he was still an unknwon photographer.
    Coming back to this project, the style is different to the previous work, the Valentina Quintano works, in which I see also a cliché I think some people is using a lot now: when they want to talk (with photos) about dreams, tales or poetry, the pictures has to be blurred.. why?

    Different photographers, different styles. That´s the great stuff of photography! Diversity!

  • Cesar…

    Yes that’s it… blind Faith. As far as I’m concerned the best essay Pep Bonet has ever done. That essay sings loaded with soul and so does this one. I’m still enjoying it, I don’t care about the statement, I’ve given up trying to read a decent one. They are mostly awful or a load of pompous crap.

  • I guess I stand to differ the work lacks soul

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