Has photography as a profession become a gender-neutral space? We talked to a few women in photography. Read what they have got to say.
“I’ve been practising photography for the past few years now. I love capturing people and portraying their daily lives, stories revolving around them. In photography, every day is different and refreshing. Things are very unpredictable & that is the most interesting part of being a street/documentary photographer”, says Shikha Sood, a documentary photographer based in Mumbai. Yet, she added, “what disappoints her is the assumption that I, being a woman is less capable of photographing in challenging situations, which is definitely not true.”
Photography is an art form that is all about how a person sees. It is often said that there are always two people in a photograph, the one who is being photographed and the one who is photographing. Where what is in a frame can be subjective, what persists in the photograph is the unique vision of the photographer.
Shikha has been into photography for the past few years and loves documenting people’s life. She believes, her soft approach has always allowed her to connect more nicely with the subject. Perhaps, the way “my approach is not something that is because of the soft and kind nature of a woman, but an apt and empathetic approach, any photographer must have to document reality.” Says Shikha putting her thoughts on why it is important to have a soft approach towards a subject.
Commenting on the position of women in the photography world, “Inside the media industry there seems to be a misconception that ‘female’ photographers can only cover softcore stories, that they are too fragile to work in adverse situations,” says Paromita Chatterjee, a documentary photographer who is based out of Kolkata and is in the profession for more than 7 years.
Paromita has an experience of photographing in difficult conditions: severe weather, aggressive mobs, manuevering hostile crowds during political rallies etc. Yet, she says, “I don’t remember giving up in any of those circumstances. Because I think photography somehow empowers me. The camera in my hand becomes a shield which helps me overcome any insecurities I might have. At the end of the day, my camera is my talisman which helps me tide over the undercurrent of ridicule for being “a woman working in a man’s field” or the occasional lecherous glance.”
What most disappoints her are the instances when she gets asked to hide her femininity while working on the field; “that I should always have an androgynous approach. However, I grew as a photographer understanding I don’t have to hide my gender identity to tell my stories. My pictures are a clear reflection of who I am, so if I suppress my own identity then how can I be true to my craft; how will I find myself in those pictures.”
Another woman who is a budding photographer, Shefali Rafiq Bhat, documenting women in the Kashmir conflict and pellet victims shared her experience where she happens to cover a funeral. “The idea that women are not allowed near the graveyard had left me being the only women in that funeral. Where the gaze from the male photographers is one thing, the added domination of male at the site adds to another.”
Yet, she believes times are changing now. Seeing examples of women photojournalists from Kashmir, which is a conflict zone, doing brave work is what gives hope to her.
Where none of them mentions of points where they had settled to society’s expectations, all three of them vouched for how deep-rooted patriarchy and male domination has been in this profession. Where there are safety concerns in isolated and deserted places, there is uncomfortable gaze women are being subjected to when they come to shoot a photograph.
Yet there are many talented women photographers who are breaking the barriers and paved the way for many young minds. Paromita even mentions “the male photographers are also putting their efforts to make photography, a safe and gender-neutral place, but it is a battle that can’t be won in a day.”
Photography is an art that is gender-neutral. I being a woman, can’t make it good or bad. When I take a shot, I am not a woman or a man but a photographer” says Paromita exclaiming that the idea of calling me a women/ female photographer is baseless. So, this World Photography Day, we wish to give our best wishes to all the photographers out there and make it a more gender-neutral space as it is supposed to be.
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