The photography exhibition ‘Everyone Dies Grey – Queer Days Through My Lens’ by city-based student Aritra Sarkar is eye-catching, to say the least. The third-year sound design student at the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), through 34 photographs, depicts the many faces of the LGBT community in the country. “I have been wishing to do something related to the queer for a very long time. It took me some time to figure out my medium of expression. However, during April this year I decided to click photographs that would capture LGBTs, their lives and their moods,” says Sarkar.
All the photographs are clicked at FTII with its students as models. Extremely bold in nature, the photographs required them to bear a lot of skin. One of Sarkar’s works shows two men lying naked next to each other. Another shows two women, scantily clad, in a bathroom. While one is sitting on a closed commode seat with a magazine, the other is on her lap. “I strongly believe that there is a strong connection between emotions and physicality; be it opposite sex couples or same sex couples,” Sarkar explains, adding that he took conscious effort to portray physicality in the relationships in his pictures without making them look vulgar.
Each picture, says Sarkar, has a story. Motioning to the picture that shows two boys standing on the roof of a building, wearing trunks and shoes, Sarkar says, “It’s a fun picture. The two boys are very fond of superheroes. That’s why one of them is wearing a mask over his eyes, just like a superhero; the other is holding a painting that shows Batman. To bring about closeness of their relationship, I asked the models to hold hands.” There are also photographs that portray the deeper side of same-sex relationship. For example, a photo shows a man wiping another man’s underarm with a cloth. “It is my favourite one. While one man is a healer, the other one is a taker. Whenever we fall sick, it’s mostly someone very close to us, who gives us a sponge bath. The men in the photo share an intimate relationship not just physically but also emotionally. To sum it up, they care for each other,” reveals Sarkar.
There is also a photograph that portrays three characters- one man and two women. The man is helping one of the women drape a saree, the other woman is tying a tie around her neck. The three of them share a flat. “Despite having a man staying with them, the women couple’s relationship doesn’t get affected,” says Sarkar, who plans to showcase his exhibition, which concluded at FTII on September 1, in Mumbai as well as other art galleries in Pune.
Was it difficult to convince the models to pose for the camera, given the theme and content of the project? “Fortunately it wasn’t that tough. The fact that most students at FTII are liberal-minded and open to new experiments, helped immensely. They had faith in me and my project and hence didn’t question much,” says Sarkar.
What about his opinion about LGBT issues in the country? “Everyone has a right to love as well as live. But in our country the social and legal stigma attached to the LGBT community, is huge. I find it disgusting; it fills me with anger and irritation,” says Sarkar.