As a documentary photographer, I went to Varanasi India to shoot the Hindu holy festival. I had dreams of a project titled, "Sacred Water". Having never been to India, I found myself in complete and utter culture catatonic state. I had imagined a more meditative journey, but was completely blocked by visions of cremations, dead bodies, the horrific smells and the sites of starving children and deformed animals.
On day three of my journey, I was crossing the Ganges River in a boat in order to shoot the sun setting on the city. As we were rowing away, the children that were selling the prayer candles that float in the water were begging me to take them in the boat.
So we turned around and took them with us.
It was that day, that I realized what was sacred to me in India. Motherhood. The desire, or I'd say need, to protect children. Their laughter and their smiles made me feel at home. It fed me and I spent the next week with them learning about their lives, ambitions and their enormous struggles.
I saw these kids. And they, in turn, changed who I am for the rest of my life.
Usually, I take pictures and put them out for people to see. But these photos, they took me. I won't forget these children. They've fundamentally changed my own internal infrastructure. The photos are not necessarily their story, as much as it is my own.
Brenda Bancel is the president of the Take 5 Foundation and owner of Brenda Bancel Photography LLC.
She spent ten years in the advertising industry working with clients such as Apple and IBM before realizing that she wanted to focus on nonprofit work and using her own creative talent.
She is a recent graduate of the New England School of Photography, where she graduated with honors in Documentary. She hopes to use photography to bring awareness to important social issues.
Images are from Bancel's Finding the Sacred on the Sacred River project.