“Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder. Similarly, everything that people don’t find pretty about you is also something only their eyes behold.”
‘Entities’ is a photo series by Yukti Bhagchandani, a 20-year old student pursuing a Bachelor’s degree in mass media from Jai Hind College, Mumbai. As a young girl, she loved to take pictures of the people around her; she loved the play between light and shadow. As a part of her mass media course, she was taught photography by her professor, Janak Shah, who brought back Yukti’s love for photography through his lectures about the history and the technicalities of photography. These classes encouraged Yukti to exercise her love for photography. Opportunity came in the form of a project Shah gave his students, which was to shoot a series of 10 to 15 pictures of any topic of their choice. Right from the beginning, she knew that her series “would be related to people.”
“For me, photography is a medium of storytelling,” Yukti tells Homegrown. “Over the years, I had been noticing that the people around me...have always been so conscious of the way they look.” She expressed her distaste for the fact that women are constantly scrutinizing themselves, and used this the basis for her photo series.
For her, the series was an incredibly challenging one. “I knew it was going to be a challenge for women to let me click those parts of their bodies that they are embarrassed about. It was very difficult to convince people to let me click their body parts in such a bare and raw manner.” She had a lot of her subjects backing out suddenly, but she also had people give her just the kind of support she needed. She made sure to spend time with each of her subjects until they were comfortable enough to talk to her about the negativity they had faced; to open up about things they felt so ashamed and vulnerable about. Even after completing her stunning series, she tells us that she was not satisfied on the day of her project submission; there was a lot more that she wanted to say that couldn’t be fulfilled owing to the time constraints and the obstacles she faced with her subjects and her camera equipment.
The message that Yukti wishes to convey through her series? “Don’t let any remark or any comment hit you too much or affect you too much. I’m not only talking about only the negative remarks, but even the compliments. You have to aim to be so comfortable in your skin that you forget that there is anything good or bad about it; everything there is, is what makes you, you.” She accepts that our society is one of judgement; one in which we are both victims of and perpetrators of judging the people around us based on their appearance. “We end up comparing ourselves, but that is what needs to stop.” To her, our physical attributes are beyond our control. “I think that we are pretty blessed,” she notes, “because we have complete bodies – we do not have any bodily distortions or missing limbs.” She uses this argument to say that most of us have no right to complain about our appearance, and advises her viewers to start believing that they are more than their appearance, and to put their mind, efforts, time and everything else in greater, more important things. “What people say will not matter to you anymore; after a point, it is just people talking.”
The reception of the series so far has been ‘”overwhelming and heartening,” according to Yukti. People from all around the world, including Bangladesh, Pakistan, Egypt and Italy, are sharing her work and relating to it. She recalls an instance of a teenage girl messaging her on Facebook, telling her how encouraged she was by her project to speak out about her struggle with her weight. Yukti couldn’t believe the sheer number of women that she had reached out to through her series. “To know that my work has made such a huge difference is actually very inspiring.”