A few days ago, social media was abuzz with a photograph of a woman donning a cow mask in front of India Gate, New Delhi. The image, one of a series of similar photographs, quickly went viral. Catch caught up with the photographer, Sujatro Ghosh, to find out more about his unique series.
Art as protest
Still untitled, Ghosh’s photo series has already created a stir on the internet. Ghosh, an alumnus of Jamia Milia Islamia, and an independent artist and photographer, spoke about how the series is meant as a sharp critique; a poignant reminder of the current polarisation that has gripped the country.
“I was exposed to a very liberal upbringing and never had the opportunity to experience extremism in the name of religion. I moved to Delhi a couple of years ago, and it proved to be a paradigm shift for me,” says Ghosh. “The mob lynching incidents in Dadri and several others thereafter made me ponder about what I could do and stand up for such violence,” he continues.
Looking for an avenue to counter this religious extremism, Ghosh hit upon art. “Physically fighting against some extremists groups was never an option for me. Hence, I decided to use art, and through social media I wanted to make myself heard,” he says.
According to Ghosh, art is a medium that can make individuals think and assess where they stand as human beings. Through education and awareness, art can offer an alternate reality that many might not even know exists.
Taking a stand
Ghosh began the project by working with friends, the only option that was available. “Many people refused to participate when I approached them in the initial stages of the project. In fact, one of my closest friends decided not to be a part of the project. While many others asked me not to use their names, or some weren’t comfortable with covering their faces.”
However, as Ghosh forged ahead with the project on social media, he was flooded with a series of positive responses. “After the project went live, many people, who had refused to be a part of it initially, agreed to be photographed, including my close friends.”
The bigger picture
While the initial going may have been rough, the project has managed to connect with a wide audience. Clearly, the concern about recent instances of violence in the name of cow protection was not limited to Ghosh alone.
“Extremism is dangerous, and it can harm you in many ways. Whatever is happening in India is beyond one’s wildest dreams and it’s sad to see people benefiting out of politics of religion. For the sake of political gains, the average Indian citizen is being injected with religious intolerance and hatred,” says Ghosh.
The road ahead
Ghosh’s project is by no means over. However, as his visibility increases, so to do the chances of an aggressive, possibly violent, response to his work. While he hasn’t yet faced harsh reactions or criticism on social media, he doesn't seem too worried by the possibility.
"I thought documenting in Delhi would be tough for me, but I have shot in high security places like Rashtrapati Bhawan and India Gate without any difficulty. I simply wish to see this project become a collaborative movement that can educate the masses and create an awareness of the prevailing socio-political scenario in the country," said Ghosh.