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What Do You Do With The Pictures You Click When You Travel?

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By Artika Raj

As I sat developing my recent set of films, in a small red-light cabin, dipping them in and out of various chemical baths – my curiosity to see how the photographs might have come out only increased by the minute.

Not.

Because hey, it’s the 21st century and if you’re still processing your pictures it’s ‘coz you’re old-school-cool or stuck in a time warp.

Either way, what’s probably the same for all of us, even now, is the brimming hope of having captured a timeless moment or a hidden perspective when we ‘click’! Photography over the years has evolved into an art form, having been enriched as also possibly having taken a few hits, in its journey. From the first bulky cameras to the smartphones of today that have changed the way we look at, share, and define photographs and photographers, I pose the question to Idris Ahmed, photographer and founder of PhotoCommune, a photography collective in Delhi, on what he thinks of the whole thing – “Pretty much like all things technology whose advent has had its pros and cons – the increasing use of smartphone cameras has both helped the art of photography and at the same time has done disservice to it too. People have stopped experiencing the joys and pleasures of life and are too busy capturing it with their cameras. But at the same time it gives you the edge of sharing your images spontaneously – it’s almost like communicating with images.”

This month, members of Photo Commune, which describes itself as a collective of photography enthusiasts who meet up every Sunday “to learn about the techniques and art of photography,” are holding an exhibition at the India Habitat Centre, New Delhi. Called ‘Off-Roaders’, it promises to be a visual journey from the POV of these photographers where they take the viewers through the cold but oddly calming mountains of Lahaul-Spiti, the revealing back lanes of Venice, the many pillared and aesthetically marvelous mandirs of Khajuraho, and through a cultural sojourn that they believe truly reflects the inclusive social fabric of our country. Also, there is a message in what these guys are doing – so many of us click pictures when we travel, the scenes off the beaten track, but what do we do with them after? Perhaps joining this collective is a good option.

Offered here is a glimpse into the exhibition and the exhibitors, and maybe a travel story that might just be similar to yours:

Aman Agrawal

Aman Agarwal

I was absolutely smitten by the magical world of Spiti and its people, on my recent photography trip organised by Photo Commune. And, that is the experience, I aim to pass on, in this exhibition. Although, I am full-time behind the lenses at some place or else, the calm that Spiti offered me while at work, is unparalleled. Every time I look at these pictures, the zesty me gets closer to the tranquil me, which I had discovered in Lahaul and Spiti.

Ambuj Khanna

Ambuj Khanna

For a UI Engineer, photography is a UI (user interface) constant in my life and to my life. I like to capture life’s texture through my lenses, which is best felt while travelling. Through this exhibition, I want to present the beauty that manifests in various religions in India, learning for me as well and hopefully for the rest of India’s youth. The rituals and practices differ yet keep us alive and together as a diverse collective because ‘Majhab Nahi Sikhata Aapas Mein Bair Rakhna‘. I really hope my work at ‘Off-Roaders’ drives this idea into each and everyone.

Maria Tirkey

Maria Tirkey

An important aspect of travel is exposure to Socio-cultural fabric of the country you are visiting. And ever-evolving art forms or any medium of expression is the best way to catch the sentiments. Hence, ‘Graffiti’ as an art form has always intrigued me as a genre of artist expression and the way it has evolved over years.

While roaming around in the winding lanes of Venice, I came across this wall with posters of various plays and movies showing in the town. I don’t know it was intentional or just happened by chance, the posters arrangement depicted different facets of life from birth to death and from good to evil and also the 5 elements ‘panch bhu tatva’ that created life and become a part of the universe once you die.

This picture also is from Venice. This is a backside of a house in Venice and these were the names on the wall that reminded me of 1960’s – 80’s era when ‘tagging’ their names on walls in as many places as possible to get famous. Also, what’s more fascinating is a picture of Mother Mary in the middle of the scribbled names as if, she is listening to those people.

Safder Ali

Safder Ali

Mysterious mountains, vivacious valleys, serene snowscape, untouched utopia. Far away from the myriad madness of the urbane, Spiti – an odyssey to spirituality through nature, was an experience of a lifetime. As the mystic wind whiplashed on me, with limited consciousness within an unlimited surrealism, these are some memoirs of the valley I could freeze in time. Hope you feel the fresh aroma of the mountain winds and the chants of the enigmatic monasteries, as these photographs attempt to teleport you there for a few minutes.

Shikhar Mohan

Shikhar Mohan

Photography is what makes my heart beat. Every time I pick up my camera and venture out, I feel like this is what I was born for and this is what I wish to do all my life. Photography for me has evolved from a hobby to a philosophy. I want to run along with my camera, behind experiences and not certificates.

The photos I present to you at ‘Off-Roaders’ is from one of my favourite places, Khajuraho. As much as we have heard of it and seen it in the media, not as many Indians have experienced its grandeur first-hand. While a picture may not be as close to actually spending time with the Khajuraho Temple architecture, I have tried to bring back stimuli. I hope my photos here will provide the push one needs to go and experience the Godly heritage that the small village of Khajuraho is blessed with.

Shubhra Brakh

Shubhra Brakh

I always wanted to see Eiffel tower for two reasons – one for being the architectural marvel it is and second for being the symbol of love. I have always been enchanted by its beauty from what I had seen in the pictures and read in the books. So when we reached Paris, Eiffel tower was on top of my bucket list. I wanted to explore this from every possible angle and in every light available be it early in the morning or at twilight or seeing the sun going down from the top of the tower and it being getting lit up level by level. And from the moment I started taking that first step upstairs I couldn’t help but marvel at the beauty of this masterpiece, it’s indeed a sight to behold. When I took these pictures I was not looking for anything specific, but had generally been looking out for geometry and symmetry plus I wanted to keep my frames quite minimalistic. The shot with the reflection of a tower on a glass pane is my personal favorite amongst all the other ones.

Yeashu Yuvraj_updated

Yeashu Yuvraj

In socio-economic terms, they say, I am a full-time music educator and musician. Nevertheless, there may be days when I step outside without my audio equipment but hardly any without my camera bag and tripod. Photography is not different from what I like to do in music- Absorb (what I sense, hear or see), Interpret (a song or an object), Compose (a melody or a frame), Arrange (musical sections or visual elements), Practise (techniques, musical or photographic), Share (with students and audience) the little bit I have to offer and finally Spread, the want to express through them.
So, there’s no difference really. At ‘Off-Roaders’, I bring to you portraits worth a thousand words, for me. For these, I can’t help but remember the famous lyrics by Timothy Miles Bindon Rice and Sir Elton John

It’s the Circle of Life
And it moves us all
Through despair and hope
Through faith and love

You’ll know when you come and see those eyes and that smile and maybe even feel the breath.

‘Off-Roaders’ the exhibition will be on at the India Habitat Centre from November 19th to 22nd. To know more about the exhibition visit Photo Commune’s Facebook page.

You must be to comment.
  1. Mahitha

    This is a great write up. Thank you for sharing the amazing stories of different people.

  2. Saurabh Bijalwan

    Wonderful read!

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform Change.org, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on Change.org has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in Change.org’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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