Tomorrow, Sunday 8th March, is International Women’s Day. We thought it particularly fitting that we feature a recent project that highlights the ongoing plight of our sisters worldwide. The issue of violence against women is one that has received greater coverage in the media over the last few years. This is due, in part, to some particularly nasty incidents in India which have sparked international outcry.

Last year, I became aware of Sunny Mangat’s work. Canadian, but currently completing her Ph.D in London, Sunny is committed to researching the issue of violence against women in the Asian sub-continent. You can read an article about her here, engage with her Facebook Page, and also receive news of all her current projects via her website.

I was completely inspired by Sunny’s work; she is totally committed to highlighting the plight of abused women worldwide.

I got in touch with Sunny and we spoke at length about how I could possibly undertake a project which would support the findings of her research in a really visual way. At Rupa Photography, we typically concentrate on social and commercial photography, which is all about capturing stunning photographs. Undertaking a socially conscious project was something that I had wanted to do for a long time. I feel that it’s important to enhance awareness of issues that are often considered taboo.

We were asked to portray five statements/facts using photography:

1. Every 21 minutes a woman is raped in India.

2.1 in 4 Dalit women are raped daily in India – also known as “untouchables.”

3. Babulal Gaur, the Home Minister of the BJP- Madhya Pradesh statement “Sometimes it is Right, Sometimes it is wrong.”

4. Prime Minister Narinder Modi’s statement: “Does it suit us to make comments on such incidents, can we not be quiet?”

5. India “you must be the change you wish to see in the world” Mahatma Gandhi

The Creative Process

We wanted to shoot images that were powerful, emotive and thought provoking. Rupa Photography was given full creative licence, from the initial ideas to mood boards, organising the shoot, the models, clothes and styling.

Something that struck me initially was the double meaning of some of the ‘inspiration statements’. Furthermore, those women who experience violence so often lead double lives; in fear of their abusers they seek to cover up evidence. It led me to consider how I could capture this in the photos we were producing.

I started my love of photography using film SLR cameras, devoting hours to developing black and white photographs in a dark room. As time has progressed, I’ve returned to using film, using Lomo cameras. I love the final results, as they are so different from digital photos. Lomo photos have a raw quality combined with a mystery because you have no idea how the final picture will turn out until they are developed. Part of my experimentation has been shooting double or multiple exposures. This technique is when you shoot on film, and then you rewind the film and shoot onto the already shot film. Therefore, two images are combined to become one. This technique can produce some amazing results but once again it is very hard to control and see what you are getting as you have to wait till you get the film developed.

Ladies who experience violence face an inner battle over who is to blame for the abuse, often blaming themselves. The decision to use double exposure was a technique that I felt highlighted this. This method would hopefully create a set of images that individually work but also make a real statement as a collection. To limit distraction in the final images, we decided that they would be black and white. We wanted to evoke the emotions involved and make the images timeless and expressive. Alongside working with Sunny, we were lucky enough to collaborate with a brilliant group of hair and makeup artists who achieved the final results.

Credits:

Rupa Nagamootoo of Rupa Photography  – Concept, production and photography

Steve Shipman – Photography, assistant

Mandy  Thompson – Graphic Artist / Postproduction on images

Laura McCarthy  – Special Effects, Make-up Artist

Gurpal Bansal – Hair and Make-up

Nisha Sharma – Assistant

Models:

Amee Syeda

Sara Zubair

Anna Sudawarat

Roshni Patel

The photos from this shoot have been widely distributed. For further reading, check out these articles which feature our work.

www.vancouverdesi.com byobfnetwork.com zanibasghar.wordpress.com www.voiceonline.com vancouver.24hrs.ca www.southasianpost.com www.darpanmagazine.com www.theprovince.com www.calgaryherald.com www.ottawacitizen.com