It was in the year 2014, when I first met the survivors of acid attacks at a protest march at Jantar Mantar in Delhi. It was disheartening to see how such evil act can affect lives so badly. There was a visible anger and pain in the victims of acid attacks. We often hear about such incidents, feel bad, sympathise and forget about it. This is where I felt we need to do something about it.
I decided to tell the story of these victims through photography and created Sacred Transformations. Art is a strong medium of social change. I believe that the powers of visuals are strong and wide. They are generally easily perceived and at the same time leave a longer and lasting impression on mind. I wanted people to connect with the images in order to understand the problems of the victims. Human emotions connect us all. They are universal and yet very personal to each individual. I thought it was important for people to connect at a much meaningful level, than merely sympathising. And so I decided to work on this project.
I have always been motivated and inspired by my Guru, Sri Sri Ravi Shankar Ji. I respect and religiously believe in the concept of vasudev kutumbakam preached and practised by him, and try to walk on his footsteps. For any society to be happy, it is important that we understand each other and be sensitive towards each other. Suppression, hatred, anger etc. is no good for us. It’s important for us to understand that we are good people, and we all love harmony and peace. A handful of people who are spreading negativity cannot overpower the goodness. We should be useful to the society, and never delay doing good things. And the feeling of standing with them occurred to me so instinctively that I did not think I could afford to postpone it.
It took around 12 to 13 sessions of shooting for me to come up with these photographs. And I’m glad to see that the photographs are touching people. There has been a good response. The survivors are also looking forward to the exhibition. I’m glad that I got to meet and interact with many of them, but could shoot only with few. There were around 15 of them in total. We share a very familial relation and they regard me as their brother. They enjoyed being photographed. All of them were very jovial and cordial throughout. One could feel high energy on the sets. They understood the depth of the work, and were always very supportive.
The notion of beauty is definitely built upon societal conditioning. There are people out there who believe and condition others to believe that, if you do not fit in the conventional sense of beauty, you would not be considered. I absolutely disregard such notions. It’s such a shame, that because of these constructs, we often ignore and even go to the extent of shaming people for being themselves. People should understand that colour or structure is not everything and breaking this notion was also one of the prime motives of taking this project. The victims are no less beautiful.
Sacred Transformations is on view till12 March at Arpana Caur Art gallery, New Delhi