We are living in a time where people are doing unconventional jobs — turning their hobby into a passion and working for causes they really care for! And women are no different — from sports to hospitality, military, dance, photography or what not — women are setting new boundaries. On the eve of World Photography Day, here are a few of the Indian female photographers who are shaking up our perspectives on India.
Arati Kumar Rao
An environmental photographer, Arati is on an infinite journey to tell the hidden stories of South Asia’s rivers that are worsening due to human activities, slowly but drastically. She tries to seize a glimpse of the violence inflicted on the people living on the riverbanks in her photographs. A lot of those people are denied basic human rights in the name of development.
She spends her time in field research and portrays a lived experience which is immeasurably impacted by the negative impact humans have on the environment. She hopes that people will pay attention to her work, the symptoms and real causes for these deteriorations happening in our valuable ecosystems and communities.
A photojournalist and documentary photographer, Karen has a special interest in issues concerning indigenous communities, women, and the environment. She is a self-taught photographer who believes that it’s a beautiful way of telling a story.
“In early February, on a cold winter’s evening, hundreds of bodybuilders from across the country gathered in Chandigarh to compete in the 8th Federation Cup in the Senior National Men’s and Women’s Bodybuilding Championship. Only eight of those bodybuilders were women. While it’s been rare to see Indian women pursue professional bodybuilding, the numbers are slowly rising, and many are competing, and winning titles, internationally,” she recalls this click of hers.
A photojournalist who has spent time with women involved in commercial surrogacy and young female drug addicts, Cheena loves exploring the streets of India’s red-light districts and the corridors of mental asylums in India. She tries to present their lived experiences, with humility and respect, to the outer world who otherwise, she believes would have never got a glimpse of this world.
“I got the opportunity to visit the Indian Naval Academy in Kozhikode, Kerala, in March 2018, to document 12 lady cadets who were training alongside 1,200 male cadets. These ‘women with anchors’ have chosen a career not many would dare pursue. I learned that the only option for women, who have a Bachelor’s degree in engineering and wish to serve in the Indian Navy, is a six-month course at the academy, where gender lines have been blurred,” shares Cheena while talking about this photo.
A photographer always on the lookout for stories of lives behind closed doors, Saumya finds an unaccountable joy in discovering deeper layers of people and cultures through her lens. She captures the stories of girls who live without a sense of escape or alternative and hope that her work will compel others to support child welfare.
“Gender equality begins with educating a girl child. In rural India, it takes a lot of courage for parents to provide and continue the education of their daughters, given the high rates of child marriage and sexual abuse. But only if more girls continue to make it to school, they will become better mothers, who will raise better families. This will allow their daughters to have brighter futures,” Saumya said.
A photojournalist who finds joy in unexpected simple stories, Anushree believes that every picture has a story — the more you observe it, the more it tells you.
“Growing up, I had always been told that I should behave a certain way because I am a girl. Aren’t we girls always taught to respect the “male gaze”? “Sit properly!” “Cover your knees!” “Don’t wear that revealing top” “Come home by 7 PM!” These were some of the diktats that I had to adhere to, while my cousin brothers never had such rules. When I saw this lady sleeping contentedly in a public space, I had this rushing sense of comfort. What a beautiful, liberating space the ladies compartment is where we, women, can just be ourselves. Public space is for everyone, and I believe that one need not act to gratify others. This image is not about breaking stereotypes but having the same rights as everyone,” Anushree shares her emotion while clicking this picture.
A photographer who believes that every artist has got some responsibilities, Paromita firstly realized this when she documented the Lok Sabha elections in Varanasi when she was young. She went on photographing a woman who had lost her children to malnutrition due to an epidemic in the village. She got to learn how those villagers pinned their hope for aid on people in the media with this experience.
She understood power dynamics that come from capturing suffering. Inspired by Robert Capa’s statement, “If your pictures aren’t good enough, you’re not close enough,” Paromita tries to get as close as possible to her subjects in an attempt to promote social change.
A wildlife photographer, Rathika hails from a village called Venkatachalapuram near Theni which is in Southern India. She loves to connect with the drama and colours of nature and loves doing bird photography. She walks with her camera through the national parks, forests, secluded areas and tries to grab every possible moment in her clicks.
Her style shows her passion and dedication to her work. Her work has also been praised and featured at several national and international platforms. She also takes wildlife photography workshops and hopes to change the perspective of the world towards wildlife welfare — one click at a time.
And the list is vast and amazing. And since I know I’ve missed many names here, please tag your favourite photographer diva who is all determined to change the people’s perspectives with her work. #WorldPhotographyDay