Scars of stalking: Real and reel

At a time when safety and personal space of women in India isbeing questioned in every circle, filmmaker-photographer Aishwarya Arumbakkam voices against stalking -- another aspect ofthis grave concern that goes unnoticed most of the time. In her new photo essay, Stalked: Scars in Time and Space, the artist challenges the cinematic portrayal of stalking, hence, its acceptance as the only means to earn one’s affection.

Photographs from the photo essay, Stalked: Scars in Time and Space by artist Aishwarya Arumbakkam

The hero runs after the girl, sometimes with a flower, other times on a motorcycle following her incessantly wherever she goes, harassing her till she accepts the advances.

“A hero is someone everyone in the audience aspires to be. So, when a hero follows the heroine, constantly violating her personal space, till she gives in, it automatically justifies the action,” says Arumbakkam, adding “Cinema has been portraying stalking as a romantic action, which is necessary and acceptable to gain a girl’s affection. But the experiences for the real victims of stalking are not romantic but traumatic; many of whom arestill trying to recover from their experiences of stalking,” she adds.

Arumbakkam used a 35mm film SLR camera for the black-and-white series, using multiple exposures to retell the trauma the victims went through. “During my research, I came across several stories of stalking, but most looked into how it happened and when it happened. None talked about the trauma that the survivors went through. Stalked, the exhibition, is an attempt to depict how they felt at the time, and after the incident,” she reveals.

Everyone featured in the 15 photographs-- that are part of the essay -- are survivors of stalking. The Mumbai-based artist, a graduate from National Institute of Design, met several individuals who underwent the experiences, spent days and weeks interacting with them regularly, to ensure they felt comfortable to open up. “They deserve plenty of compliments for being able torelive the trauma for the series. It wasn’t easy, but they did it,”
adds Arumbakkam.

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