(Written by Shreya Agrawal)
“This is not just a photo exhibition but a movement of change,” says award-winning photographer Niraj Gera about is latest show, ‘Sacred Stains’ which is currently on display at the Lalit Kala Akademi. The show, which features 33 powerful photographs depicting the stigmas, myths and concerns surrounding menstruation, aims to sensitise the society towards menstruation and the several issues associated with it.
An Art of Living faculty, Gera was inspired by the organisation’s ‘Pavitra’ campaign which centered around menstrual hygiene, and decided to give a “voice and noise” to women through his images that document the intricate threads of the struggles faced by women due to the “pain caused by menstruation and by the society for menstruating”.
On being asked why he chose the medium of photography to highlight the issue, he said that pictures are “one of the most effective mediums, and visuals create a lot more noise than words.”
The series, which comprises both black and white and coloured photographs, touches upon the many issues women face during menstruation such as the pain and cramps, stigma surrounding the stains on clothes, society’s silence over this natural process, lack of awareness among men, lack of conversation about periods, the debates of purity, unaffordability of menstrual hygiene products, and non-biodegradable sanitary napkins and tampons.
The photographs are edited by Thakur Mohan Kumar, and are accompanied by well-crafted captions written by Nandita Kumari.
However, working on the series was no easy feat, as Gera found it challenging to get women to talk to him openly about the issues they face during menstruation. Growing up as a male in a society where men aren’t made aware of the struggles their female counterparts face during menstruation only added up to the challenges.
“Most girls refused to be a part of it as it revolved around menstruation. This gives a clear indication about the depth to which the stigma surrounding menstruation has seeped into the society. The girls who agreed to be a part were initially hesitant with the display of blood in the photographs,” he says, adding that they asked it to replace the same with something more flowery like rose petals or advertisement-like blue liquid,”
Gera’s movement of change isn’t limited to his photo exhibition, he has also filed a petition with the prime minister to provide free sanitary pads, tampons, and menstrual cups and other menstrual hygiene products to women.
Aiming to spread the message, he plans to organise 250 camps on menstrual hygiene awareness across the country. These will include camps with a special focus to increase awareness among men. As a part of this drive, he, along with his team, also plan to visit schools and colleges.
As part of his programme, he also plans to distribute sanitary napkins to needy women all over the country.
The show is on until June 1.
The writer is an intern at indianexpress.com