“If only I could see a landscape as it is when I am not there. But when I am in any place, I disturb the silence of heaven by the beating of my heart.”
Perhaps taking clues from the quote above, The New Yorker says, “We take pictures to create the illusion of possession (of an object, a person, a moment), but the things that pass in front of our cameras inevitably wriggle from our grasp.” In writing about photographs that capture the nude, Chris Wiley, the writer, tried to reason why nude photography is often conflated with voyeurism in the popular imagination.
This is why, when we were tempted to ask Abhinav Kafare, whose brilliant lockdown project we are showcasing here, about nude photography and people, he pointed out the need for the audience to shift their gaze.
“Nudity has been taboo in our society. We still zoom the photograph when we see a woman in the photograph. We do not see it as a piece of art, we just see the person in it and make our judgements about it. When we’ll start respecting the human body, we will start seeing nude objectively as a piece of art. People do not see the composition, emotion, beauty, truth, and thought in that photograph. Instead, the interest in the model has something to say about the narrowness of the society’s mentality. I strongly think that this needs to be changed.”
We had started off by thinking about featuring a completely different picture of Kafare’s, but when he introduced us to his special project, we were left touched by the intimacy and the intricacy of it. Each of the images is raw in its appeal even though his pictures are just about an ordinary couple doing the most mundane things.
Kafare’s inspiration behind the project was to capture intimacy in times of the COVID-19 lockdown. However, a viewer might be able to tell that it came out to be so much more. It’s about the two people opening up to each other, perhaps literally ‘exposing’ their vulnerabilities as they chat, make chai, and have it together with a plate full of biscuits. There’s a sense of comfort in the most intimate of scenes. You know there’s a good photographer behind the lens when the subject is unperturbed by the presence of the lens. Kafare’s photographs transport the viewer to the site of action and make them watch without feeling like a voyeur. In fact, they invite the viewer to go back and look at their own lives, maybe think about similar moments they have shared or share with someone. The unperturbed sense of grace and confidence in the photos make them utterly personal and special.
Upon being asked about the need for nude photography to convey these emotions, Kafare elaborated, “Nude photography gives you space where you can capture a person without any inhibitions. It’s like you are capturing a free soul. Many of the material standards that we see a person through, such as clothes and shoes are no more there. You get to see the inner side of their personality. I feel that nude photography gives me the chance to capture the human body in its rawest form. The body is, after all, a place where our mind resides”
On the intention behind the project itself, Kafare said, “ One of the things that the COVID-19 lockdown brought to the surface was the increasing insecurities and tensions in human relationships. The very element of touch starting coming under threat, and everyone started becoming more and more suspicious about everyone else. In such a situation, I was curious to explore how a young couple who hardly used to get time for each other before the lockdown, spends the quarantine together. I also wanted to think about how COVID-19 has also made us realise the unpredictability of life and the importance of relations. As an artist, I am always curious about human relationships and the element of love. All of this further inspired me to explore love in the times of COVID.”
About the message he wants to convey, he further noted, “During these dark times, we as humans have realised or well, if we haven’t already, it’s high time we realised that absolutely everything in the world can wait. We do not need to run all the time behind material success; life is much more than that. In difficult times such as this, only love and compassion for each other can save us. Furthermore, the pandemic has made us realise the importance of pause in our lives. It has prompted us to check with the basics.”
Thus, in depicting ordinary moments, Kafare attempts to go back to the basics and wants us to know that beneath our exteriors, as unclothed, naked people, we are all about the basics. And love. Mostly love.
He adds that the intention behind capturing the series was to pursue the changing dynamics when it comes to closeness, interactions, bonds, and the societal roles that play within a couple’s relationship. He wanted the viewer to see their own self through these images. More than anything, he wanted to fill the viewer with simple joy.
All along, Kafare was invested in the comfort level he could grant to the couple and so, when we asked him about the nuances he had to consider, he unabashedly said that he never wanted to interrupt his subjects’ privacy while shooting private moments. “I was interested in seeing what unites them and what detaches them,” he added.
Support and purchase his art here.
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