Today, I came across a post on Facebook. It boasted of upholding the photographic representation of bedrooms around the world. Interesting as the name suggested, the photographs were vibrant and truly showcased talent. The illusion was shattered when I came across the photograph of an Indian bedroom: the picture was bland; no amount of editing added glamour to the room, or maybe it was intended to be presented in such a manner.
pic source: myroomphotos.com. The official site of Mr. Thackwray’s project. Location: Bamansemilya.
As can be seen, the picture depicts an Indian house: shabby floor with a camp bed surrounded by moss leaden walls. An under-aged housewife (17 yrs) smiles at the ceiling, beaming with happiness in her humble abode.
The post was flooded with comments, some shaming the page for sharing such a post where India is demeaned to such an extent while a few agreeing that the photograph represented the bitter truth of “true India”. As for me, I did a little digging about the post before indulging in any sort of arguments. Here is what I found :
My Room Project is the work of an internationally famous photographer John Thackwray. He had travelled almost 52 countries and has showcased 1200 bedrooms in his worldwide exhibitions. You can have a look at his entire project here.
I do not intend to comment about the pictures of other countries because I have limited knowledge about them, I say so because I mainly rely on the internet for any information about them, but I definitely know my country. Yes, in India such homes exist, but my concern lies in the fact that, should India be represented in this manner? That too at an international level? Some may come up with the concern that the photographer was presenting the entire world through his lenses so he had limited choice to highlight only a part of India. So, let me show you this:
picture borrowed from the official website of John Thackwrey. Location: Varanasi
This picture is also a part of the same project. So, the man behind the concept chose to represent India through two photographs and in both cases he chose homes of underprivileged people. We never come across the homeless people of New York or Chicago in fancy magazines, do we? Then why is a progressive nation like India represented in such a manner? India is no longer recognised as a poor country. People need to understand that. Every country has a darker side, it is undoubtedly a matter of concern but not something that is to be celebrated. An average middle-class home could have been showcased (at least in any one of the two pictures). The photographer had not need to fish inside some remote/slum area to highlight Indian lifestyle.
All the pictures of the project have been compiled into a fine book, which I figure would also give an insight to the background of the protagonists represented. I could not read between the lines of Mr. Thackwray’s book since it is in French. So if he has given any reason for portraying India in such a manner, I would totally be unaware of it. While studying about his work, I also came across a fragmented piece of his interview in which he mentions that his curiosity about how the lifestyle of people of (almost) his age have “mutated” over the years led him to the project. He also mentioned about the struggles of the protagonists. So basically, in the past decade India has made such progress (read no progress) as shown by the pictures.
With respect to his insight I would like to mention that, unfortunately most people would only consider his photographs and not the thought behind it. Most of the websites are circulating the photographs with only the location and the photographer name; no background story is mentioned. If you are willing to hit the internet regarding the original post in other websites, be ready to be greeted by comments like :
“Indians are not poor but chose to live in such way” Or “poor girl got married at the age of 17” !
Behold my friends, this is the way the people are seeing us through Mr. Thackwray’s eyes. His book would be released by Christmas this year and this picture of our country would be upheld.
P.S : Even Google map is unaware of Bamansemilya. Go ahead, search for it and you would be directed to Mr.Thackwrey’s ambitious project.
Disclaimer : Every opinion mentioned in this post is from a personal point of view and does not intend to offend any person of any position.
#bamansemilya #photography #IndiaStereotyped #Varanasi