Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh was made across several days and nights, over innumerable meals of biryani, warm embraces and tender exchanges. In the first week of January I joined the Shaheen Bagh movement as a protestor. As friendships were struck, and chai and biscuits shared, I began to make images.
This growing intimacy soon took on a tactile form of exchange. For every portrait I made, I created an identical Polaroid or “jadoo ka kaagaz” as they were playfully renamed, to give the women and children I photographed.
Some of the portraits have been layered with images of shawls and burqas worn by fellow protestors, to evoke the camaraderie and kinship that formed the essence of Shaheen Bagh. We soon had an impromptu photo studio as my documentation became a community exercise. As one woman cajoled her shy mother-in-law to have her picture made, “My mum saw my photo from yesterday and really wants you to make one of her too,” others brought their cousins and children in for family style pictures. Also included in the book are drawings made at the on-site crèche by the children who were waiting patiently while their mothers participated in the revolution.
For the women of Standing Rock and Black Lives Matter, the women of the Dandi March and the Chipko Movement, for those at the frontlines of India’s non-violent protests, this book is an act of remembrance, to preserve the powerful legacy of women at the forefront of historic revolutions.
Prarthna Singh is a photographer whose work explores questions of identity and gender, especially as they intersect with the fraught politics of nationalism in contemporary India. Her images reflect on the economic and political trajectory of the country, drawing connections between feminine precariousness and vulnerability, on the one hand, and radical acts of courage on the other. Her practice negotiates how the two sides are inextricably linked. These narratives are deliberately constructed within India’s own traditions, poised between fragility and abundance. After completing her BFA in photography from the Rhode Island School of Design, Prarthna lived and worked in New York City. Currently she is based in Bombay.
Her work has been published in TIME, The New York Times Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, Wired, FT Weekend, Monocle, Bloomberg News and The Guardian.
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