Project Phoenix

Published: 08 March, 2010 08:53 IST | The Guide team |

Photographer Achinto Bhadra sat with victims of abuse, betrayal, rejection, captivity, slavery and bondage, and through his lens, transformed them into what they'd always yearned to be

Photographer Achinto Bhadra sat with victims of abuse, betrayal, rejection, captivity, slavery and bondage, and through his lens, transformed them into what they'd always yearned to be

Documentary photographer Achinto Bhadra's name bears a partial resemblance to bhadralok, or what they called a gentleman in Bangla. Likewise, he lives up to that part. "I shouldn't be talking about my work; the NGOs should be," he insists modestly, as THE GUIDE settles for a chat. Bhadra isn't a conversational crusader. It's his lens that is mightier than the sword.


Prey to prayers: Achinto Bhadra's contemporary Durga. The peeping child
was made to sit that way to add to the goddess' hands. "We didn't want
10 false limbs. One real one did it," says the artist


On International Women's Day, the ardent artist and advocate of women's rights is ready with a project that brings alive extraordinary women in their myriad moods. Called 'Another Me - Transformations from pain to power', this project is about the journey undertaken by Bhadra and counsellor Harleen Walia as they guided 126 girls and women through a healing journey of psychological transformation.

The girls and women in the photographs, aged eight - 25, are survivors of trafficking, rape or abandonment, or are the children of sex workers. They have been in the care of Sanlaap, a non-governmental organisation based in Kolkata. The photography sessions were conducted at Sanlaap's Sneha Girls Shelter. "It's wrong to call them victims. They're survivors," he asserts. 

Through months, the women were assisted by the counsellor to narrate their personal histories -- of disappointed childhood, abuse, betrayal, abduction and finally, slavery in the brothels.

It was during this course of time that they donned costumes and wore makeup when the photographer guided them. As each girl and woman stood before the camera in the silent studio, she transformed into what the artist calls 'another me'. The aggressive ones quieted down, the depressed raised their heads, tears of release flowed. "For a moment, each felt the power within herself. And today, that brief transformation remains an inner source of confidence and strength," Bhadra beams.

But can the shutter do justice to the sanctity of the female form? "Photography is just a medium. It was the process that gave them a new life," Bhadra corrects.

If it's meeting the subjects in flesh and blood that interests you more, attend the interactive session, 'The Making of Another Me', on March 10, where the girls will share their experiences.

The aim: sensitisation and awareness. To lighten up the mood, there will be an evening of opera. 'L'Opera ou la defaite des femmes', to be held on the evening of March 9, is based on a French novel written by the Philosopher Catherine Clement in 1979. It is the story of a young girl fantasising the perfect love, but when she meets the man, her image of love is shattered and she is disappointed. Thus, she relinquishes love. 

The opera comprises some of the most famous arias: La Traviata, Lucia di Lammermoor, Rigoletto, La Bohème and Romeo et Juliette, and will be presented by artist Aude Priya. Some insightful seminars, too, are in store. Femininity ko French salaam.

Women and Womanhood
When: Opens today at 8 pm; on till March 13
At: 11 am to 8 pm
Where: Alliance Française de Delhi, 72 Lodhi Estate

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