A photo from Jasmine Gate photoseries by Karan Kumar Sachdev.
Grown on the soils of patriarchy, women who wished to explore the unconventional sides of femininity were either asked to explore it behind closed doors or simply silenced for their opinions by the men of the house. From laughing aloud in public to wearing bold lipstick shades, were activities once performed inside the four walls of the house. But femininity as a characteristic goes beyond gender roles. With the advent of digitalization and virtual space, scores of Gen-Z photographers have explored and captured varied aspects of femininity in the most eccentric way.
Intrigued by the miniature art on matchboxes, Bhargavi Sridharan, a tech writer cum photographer, and Samyukhtha Sunil, writer, podcast host, and creative consultant have brought to life vibrant and illustrious covers of matchboxes. The duo focused on matchbox covers that explored human characteristics through portraiture, colour schemes and bold typography.
‘Malini’ is the name coined by Samyukhtha, the model and writer of this series. Malini has layers to herself that she has built and she is someone who stands on her own ground. "The ‘work in progress’ is a juxtaposition to how these women in matchbox art were named or given specific titles like Indian beauty, Dancer, Flower girl, creating a sense of surety behind it.
The lack of surety that ‘Malini’ has that she cannot be defined or restricted into one box. That’s what ties up with the idea of feminism," says Bhargavi.
The ‘work in progress’ is a juxtaposition to how these women in matchbox art were named or given specific titles. — Bhargavi Sridharan, writer-photographerMalini wears bindi and adorns her hair with gajra as she sits quietly in the prayer room next to the diya. She also hoards secrets, gossip and accompanies you to the chai & sutta sessions. Malini is fully backed and brought to life by sisterhood. "The idea of femininity is also in the shared experiences and collaboration. Female friendships, sisterhood, working with an artist who is also a woman, are pockets of experiences that add up to Malini as a character."
Back in the day, the thought of women enjoying freely with their friends or embracing their womanhood was beyond the pale of Indian society. Jasmine Gate, a photo series by Karan Kumar Sachdev for a clothing brand is a static personification of his belief in equality and egalitarianism. Being raised by two women who competed in the world of men as equals, Karan brings life to his photo series from his observations. His work captures three free-spirited South Indian friends, embracing moments of their friendship, at a beach in silk sarees and shringar. "Photography has immense potential and power to express and advocate what one believes in," he says. For example, communities that have previously been under-represented. He credits Jahnvi Bansal, the creative director and stylist of the series.
It is the female friendship for some that liberates them individually but what happens when that liberation of soul comes from within? Woman in Red, a fictional photo story by photographer Sreejith Damodaran juxtaposes the assumed characteristic of femininity.
I wanted to explore the idea of ‘what if Nagavalli had the courage to kill Karanavar and fight for her love when she was alive." — Sreejith Damodara, photographerIt portrays a woman in red saree who is enslaved in a vicious magic by a guru. The inner revolting voice of the woman then urges her to liberate herself from the guru. She seeks her revenge after altering into the fighter self. Possessing feminine qualities is often misunderstood as being coy and lacking the strength to be bold and be able to take a stand for oneself.
The photo series presents the evolution of ‘She is worn out of her hopes and dreams’ to ‘She is a wild and deadly force now.’
The undefined character in Woman in Red photo series is derived from the character, Nagavalli from the famous Malyalam movie Manichitrat-hazhu.
The movie depicts the ghost of Nagavalli seeking revenge through another character named Ganga; however, Sreejith tries to take an interesting and distinctive route through this photo series. "I wanted to explore the idea of ‘what if Nagavalli had the courage to kill Karanavar and fight for her love when she was alive," he says.
Every individual has an internal resistance and a revolting self that manifests when it is offended by its own existence. But does society let women embrace their freedom of choice in public?
Priyanka Shah, a talented photographer gives a befitting reply through her photo series. She captured the side eyes and snarky remarks women, especially the ones not attired in conservative clothing, face all the time. It is a constant battle for women to fight against patriarchy. Photographs are testimonials of the changing times.