Imagine being in the midst of lush green fields, rolling hills or pristine beaches, unable to enjoy the view because you’re trapped in a box. That feeling of “frustration and restriction” is what Cornered is all about.
A photo series by US-based Farah Salem, Cornered captures the experience of “putting ourselves or allowing society to put us in a box or restrict us from a certain way of experiencing life. We become uncomfortably comfortable because we get stuck in this idea of safety, and are afraid to go outside”, says the photographer.
In March, Salem’s series, which shows a woman trapped in a box in various locations, won the International Women Photographers Award, instituted by the France-based International Women Photographers Association, a platform to showcase the craft.
The series is on display at Delhi’s Alliance Française, along with over 40 images by 10 photographers who were among the finalists for the award. “We received over 700 submissions, of which 10 finalists, besides laureate Salem’s Cornered, were chosen on the basis of technical skills and emotional force,” says Arantza Haramburu-Hamel, one of the award organizers. “This show aims to get everyone connected, as even if these images were taken in different places, they talk about similar kinds of struggle.”
Take the Iranian Soheila Sanamno’s series, for instance. She follows the life of Roghayyeh, a 26-year-old who was raped by a neighbour. “In Iranian society, a woman losing her virginity outside marriage is perceived as a colossal disaster; she would be forced to marry an old man or a widower,” says Sanamno in her artist’s note. “The silent tragedy of Roghayyeh’s life stays with you for a long while after you’ve seen the show. Although the rapist is in prison, awaiting the death penalty, for Iranian society she’s also guilty. Worse is how her family considers her a ‘sinner’,” says Haramburu-Hamel.
India’s Ranita Roy was also among the finalists. Her subject is Chhordima, her grandma. “As I saw her grow older, I marvelled at her inner strength. The drifting away of her children because of their busy lives, the death of her husband, the loneliness…. She never let anything get to her. This is my tribute to her, and what she taught me, finding happiness in whatever you do,” says Roy.
Haramburu-Hamel says, “For women, photography is a way of having a voice in our world, a voice that’s not always heard.”
International Women Photographers Awards is on till 11 June, 11am-8pm (Sundays closed), at Alliance Française, Lodhi Estate (43500200).