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Despite India's diversity, the cultural pressure to bear sons cuts through every social divide, from geography to economy. Men are seen as breadwinners while women are considered a financial burden, as parents must pay a substantial dowry when their daughters are married. As a result, the United Nations reports that at least 40 million girls in India have died from abortions, neglect or murder. 7,000 fetuses are aborted every day. One dowry death is reported every 77 minutes. Countless others are never known. From birth to death, women are threatened with violence.

In 2009, The Alexia Foundation awarded photojournalist Walter Astrada a grant to continue his coverage of violence against women throughout the world. Astrada spent four months in India over a period of two years, documenting the violence that permeates the lives of Indian women, as well as its consequences for the country.

The Alexia Foundation commissioned MediaStorm to produce a multimedia project that addressed two issues. The first was to showcase Astrada's work. The second was to add context and understanding to the cultural issues he documented.

Client: Alexia Foundation
Published: September 19, 2010
The Challenge
MediaStorm's challenge was twofold:

First, Walter Astrada's reportagé covered vast terrains of Indian culture: from the abuse of ultrasound testing for illegal sex determination, to families' abandonment of elderly widows who, in turn, are forced to live as beggars. His coverage was extensive. From the beginning, the MediaStorm team faced questions about how best to encapsulate so much information into a brief 10-15 minute production.

Second, while Astrada made more than six thousand images, he returned with only a small amount of video. It quickly became evident that more material, including interviews, would be necessary to fully realize the project.

The Solution
MediaStorm's desire for a clear and simple narrative continued throughout the four-month production cycle. The team engaged in a recursive process of eliminating unnecessary elements while constantly restructuring the project for maximum clarity. Text slides were employed to provide statistical and background information that were otherwise time prohibitive when discussed in the course of an interview.

Additionally, MediaStorm produced an accompanying epilogue with Astrada. Here, the photographer was able to describe his personal journey, detailing his reactions and experiences about his stay. This supplementary piece affords the viewer additional, more personal insight into the subject matter while also covering less top-tier, but equally important, topics.

Finally, Undesired includes additional resources: an interactive map highlighting sex ratios as well as the supplementary text, Mother’s of a Hundred Sons: India’s Dying Daughters. This essay further expands upon many of the issues raised in Undesired, ones that are best addressed in a print format.

To address the need for additional video, MediaStorm sent associate producer Shreeya Sinha to India with the goal of finding subjects that best typified the photographer’s work. Sinha spent two months there, recording more than two dozen interviews. The best of these were incorporated into Undesired. The interviews added both context and Indian voices to Astrada’s imagery.

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The Results
Undesired premiered at the Visa pour l'Image photography festival in Perpignan, France, on September 2, 2010. The project and the accompanying epilogue were officially launched a month later on both the MediaStorm and Alexia Foundation websites.

The reaction was immediate, with positive notices on Twitter, Facebook, as well as comments on the MediaStorm website.

On launch day, October 1, 2010, MSNBC.com embedded Undesired in their Photoblog with promotion on the front page of the site, giving the project an enormous boost in traffic.

About the Client
On the 21st of December, 1988, 270 innocent people were killed in the terrorist bombing of Pan Am Flight 103 over Lockerbie, Scotland. Alexia Tsairis, age 20, a Newhouse School of Public Communications student at Syracuse University, was one of them.

The Alexia Foundation promotes the power of photojournalism to give voice to social injustice, to respect history lest we forget it and to understand cultural difference as our strength — not our weakness. Through grants and scholarships, The Alexia Foundation supports photographers as agents for change.

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