Le­ica Cam­era Asia Pa­cific man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Su­nil Kaul shares with Grace Ma how the brand has been qui­etly click­ing be­hind the scenes to bring hope to slum com­mu­ni­ties in Manila

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Le­ica Cam­era Asia Pa­cific brings hope to slum com­mu­ni­ties in Manila

Su­nil kaul, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of Le­ica Cam­era Asia Pa­cific, has only one guid­ing prin­ci­ple when it comes to do­ing good: sup­port those who know best what is hap­pen­ing on the ground. With this in mind, he lever­ages on the Ger­man man­u­fac­turer of pre­mium cam­eras’ strength by pro­vid­ing equip­ment and ex­per­tise to pro­duce soul-stir­ring photography that can move the hearts of Le­ica’s well-heeled cus­tomers to con­trib­ute to a mean­ing­ful cause. “As a busi­ness, we have re­spon­si­bil­i­ties to our em­ploy­ees and share­hold­ers. We may not be able to give money di­rectly but we can find ways in our ca­pac­ity to gen­er­ate funds for a char­ity,” says Su­nil. “We can pro­vide an event space, print pic­tures, pro­vide the equip­ment and send pho­tog­ra­phers to take the best pic­tures, and the money can be raised through the pur­chase of prints.” In June, Le­ica co­in­cided the open­ing of its Le­ica Ga­lerie Sin­ga­pore at The Fuller­ton Ho­tel with the launch of Mys­te­ri­ous Hap­pi­ness, a thought-pro­vok­ing 200-page doc­u­men­tary book of slum dwellers liv­ing in the Metro Manila area of the Philip­pines, such as the Hap­py­land, Aroma and Smokey Moun­tains dump­sites. All pro­ceeds from the sale of the coffee-ta­ble book, which was first launched in Manila in April, will go to the ANAK-TNK Foun­da­tion, a Filipino non-profit or­gan­i­sa­tion that has helped more than 2,800 street kids since it started in 1998. Su­nil tar­gets to raise $35,000 through sales of Mys­te­ri­ous Hap­pi­ness at Le­ica Ga­lerie and the com­pany’s on­line store for the foun­da­tion’s re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion pro­grammes, which reaches out to chil­dren with spe­cial needs, those liv­ing in the streets and the slums, as well as those scav­eng­ing for a liv­ing by pro­vid­ing them with an ed­u­ca­tion and im­prov­ing their liv­ing con­di­tions. This is the third fundraiser Le­ica has done for the foun­da­tion, af­ter two pre­vi­ous photo ex­hi­bi­tions, with the com­pany cov­er­ing the costs of items such as the lo­gis­tics and the print­ing of pho­to­graphs, as well as the travel ex­penses and equip­ment for lo­cal pho­to­jour­nal­ist Mathias Heng and Manila-based Swedish-born pho­tog­ra­pher Anna Bär­lund, to cap­ture life in Manila’s slum com­mu­ni­ties. From stark black-and-white por­traits to the beam­ing faces of play­ing chil­dren, the re­sult is a pow­er­ful vis­ual nar­ra­tive cou­pled with real-life sto­ries from Fa­ther Matthieu Dauchez, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of ANAK-TNK Foun­da­tion, on how

hap­pi­ness can be found even in the hard­est of cir­cum­stances. “The beau­ti­ful pic­tures func­tion as a bridge in con­nect­ing peo­ple to the sit­u­a­tion here,” says Fa­ther Matthieu, w who has worked with the foun­da­tion since the very b be­gin­ning. “We are thank­ful for Le­ica’s con­tri­bu­tion not only ma­te­ri­ally, but also send­ing peo­ple such as Mathias and Anna to the field to meet the peo­ple in or­der to make an im­pact.” Mathias, who has cov­ered poverty and con­flict-in­flicted re­gions for in­ter­na­tional pub­li­ca­tions such as The Wash­ing­ton Post and Ox­fam Amer­ica, and is also a photography in­struc­tor at Le­ica Akademie, says, “I want peo­ple to be aware that even though those in the slums may suf­fer from poor liv­ing con­di­tions, there’s so much to learn from their open and friendly nature. Even though they have less, they com­plain less and can be as happy as any of us.” Su­nil first came to know of the ANAK-TNK Foun­da­tion in 2013 through his good friend, Alexis de La­porte, who was then Jaeger-lecoul­tre’s re­gional man­ag­ing di­rec­tor for South­east Asia and Australia. Dur­ing a per­sonal visit to the slum com­mu­ni­ties at his own ex­pense—some­thing he still does at least once a year—su­nil saw chil­dren liv­ing in squalid slum con­di­tions, at risk not only from sub­stance abuse and pros­ti­tu­tion, but also dis­ease and mal­nu­tri­tion. Deeply moved, he set the cam­era gears in mo­tion and the first fundrais­ing photo ex­hi­bi­tion, Left Be­hind, was or­gan­ised in February 2014 by Le­ica and Jaeger-lecoul­tre, fol­lowed by a sec­ond one, Left Be­hind II, by Le­ica last March. Both ex­hi­bi­tions sold prints taken by Mathias of Manila’s aban­doned street chil­dren. Su­nil es­chews bring­ing hordes of vol­un­teers from his com­pany over as he feels it is in­sen­si­tive to the chil­dren’s feel­ings. He says em­phat­i­cally, “Th­ese chil­dren are aged be­tween seven and 15 years old. You can’t be seen clean­ing and teach­ing one day, and gone the next. The con­stant change of faces is not good for them and they will think we are treat­ing them like an­i­mals in a zoo. So we fo­cus more on mak­ing sure ev­ery cent raised goes to sup­port the lo­cal vol­un­teers tak­ing care of the chil­dren on a reg­u­lar ba­sis, such as buy­ing books for the chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion and build­ing drainage sys­tems.” He adds, “Char­ity be­gins at home. We use what­ever we have, such as our cus­tomer base and tools, to raise funds for a good cause. We also en­cour­age lo­cal artists to show­case their skills at our gallery with the con­di­tion that they par­tic­i­pate in a char­ity project by do­nat­ing prints for sale to help the chil­dren.”

“I want peo­ple to be aware that even though those in the slums may suf­fer from poor liv­ing con­di­tions, there’s so much to learn from their open and friendly nature”

HEARTFELT GESTURES Th­ese black-and-white por­traits of the peo­ple liv­ing in Manila’s Hap­py­land slum are cap­tured by Swedish-born pho­tog­ra­pher Anna Bär­lund for the coffee-ta­ble book Mys­te­ri­ous Hap­pi­ness, now sold by Le­ica to raise funds for Filipino char­ity ANAK-TNK Foun­da­tion. She says, “The heart ges­ture is a call to feel the sin­cer­ity and love in ev­ery­one’s heart and ap­pre­ci­ate the beauty that unites us”

SIM­PLE JOYS Life may be hard, but the chil­dren liv­ing in the Tondo slum area in Manila have found ways to learn, laugh and play as in­tensely as any other kids in this im­age by Sin­ga­pore pho­to­jour­nal­ist Mathias Heng

BE­HIND THE LENS Le­ica Cam­era Asia Pa­cific man­ag­ing di­rec­tor Su­nil Kaul be­lieves in us­ing the brand’s strengths in photography to be an in­stru­ment of change for slum com­mu­ni­ties in Manila

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