On being an Indian woman, through the lens of one

A new exhibition titled Mirror opens tomorrow at Pocko, bringing together an interesting selection of photographs from Indian photographers. Images are stylistically diverse but all are made by women and feature women as their subjects. The objective of the show, curator Maria Jimenez tells us, “is to show a huge range of what a woman can be, but through the female lens”.

By Kannagi Khanna from a series titled Leela, that looks at the lives of North India’s transgender communities © Kannagi Khanna

We spoke to Jimenez about how the show came about and how artists were selected. She says Pocko Gallery wanted to mark the UK India Year of Culture, a year-long collaboration between cultural organisations in the UK (including the Arts Council and the British Film Institute) and the Government of India, which aims to foster cultural exchange between the two countries.

The Young One, a self portrait by Pamela Singh, who apart from being a photographer was also winner of the Miss India pageant © SepiaEye gallery

An official project for the year of culture fell through but the research process introduced Jimenez to Indian curators and artists.

She chanced upon the work of Delhi-based photographer Ishita Singh: “She does amazing, amazing work,” says Jimenez, “but doesn’t get commissioned as much as she probably would here in London or New York or in Paris, which is the case with a lot of female Indian photographers.”

Mumbai based photojournalist Anushee Phadnavis’s gritty and honest portrayal of what it is like to use the city’s local trains. Read our interview with Anushree here.

In conversations with Singh, Jimenez was introduced to the work of some of her contemporaries who were also doing conceptual and thought-provoking work. This led to an exploration of the art scene in India, with Jimenez narrowing in on a theme for the show and looking for bodies of work that would fit the brief.

From Annu Palakunnathu Matthew’s series An Indian from India, © Annu Palakunnathu Matthew courtesy of SepiaEye gallery

New York based gallery sepiaEYE heard about what Pocko was doing and recommended two of its artists; Annu Palakunnathu Matthew and Pamela Singh. Unlike the other selected artists, Matthew & Singh are pretty well established. “People know of them and their work, and it’s quite great for the other upcoming artists to be exhibited alongside them,” says Jimenez.

An image by Ishita Singh, from one of her earliest bodies of worth that addresses the theme of women being ashamed of and trying to hide their faces © Ishita Singh

It’s a small selection of work, but far reaching in the people and lives it represents. Kannagi Khanna takes an inside look at a community of transgender theatre artists, while Prarthna Singh profiles women wrestlers. Being a woman in India is not a singular experience but a spectrum and this is evident in the work featured in Mirror.

“You see young women in a fashion setting in Pamela Singh’s work, and an intimate portrait of an older woman going through dementia in Manjiri Sharma’s. So it’s really quite diverse,” explains Jimenez.

From The Wrestlers, © Prarthna Singh

Pocko is a communication consultancy and gallery space in Daltson, London. Mirror: Women on women is open until Friday November 17 2017.

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