A Mala Sifar Photoseries Uses Self-Portraits To Create A Compelling Visual Memoir

 Aatm Pratkriti
Aatm Pratkriti Mala Sifar

I’ve always felt that a self-portrait is to a photographer what a journal entry is to a writer. Should one choose to share their self-portraits with the world, it has the potential to come across as a powerful mirror-like tool loaded with the photographer’s perception of the self and oftentimes, as an outlet of self-expression. When the captured and capturer are the one and the same, it yields insightful results. Delhi-based photographer Mala Sifar’s self-portrait series, titled Aatm Pratkriti embodies that with artful nuance.

She channelises the power of self-portraits as a conduit for self-exploration. The series presents itself as a personal visual diary documenting her diverse emotional states and expressions in relation to how she interacts with objects and the natural world around her. We are rarely the same versions of ourselves at all given points of time and Sifar understands that well. The series unfolds as a portrayal of many versions of herself combined with her thoughts. It appears staged and yet conveys a strong sense of real emotions.

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In a candid interview with Homegrown, Sifar shared the details of her project, her inspirations, her artistic journey, the pandemic, and more:

Tell us about your project.

Aatm Pratkriti - It all started during the COVID-19 lockdown as I was witnessing the outside world dying due to the deadly virus. Our family, just like any other family, took all the measures to stay safe and good. I realized how I missed going out and that going outside would never be the same. I started to develop a different relationship with my surroundings at the place I call home — how it always stayed with changing people inside it, making it home, as they create different kinds of memories there. I started to tell myself that each corner in a way helped me become what I am today, as it grew old with me, I changed but it stayed the same in its mundane beauty. This self-portrait journey is a shred of evidence of my attachment to possible corners at my home during the lockdown.

What are some things you learned while putting this project together?

I learned to tell better stories, I got to know myself and my craft better. I learned that I needed to put more drama and intensity sometimes to some of the composition but then I chose to stay original and authentic so I chose to make the most of the spaces I was living in. I learned to play with different setups and got to learn post-production of my work and present it. I also realized that I wanted to create some work related to Studio Ghibli and the elements of nature. Knowing oneself is important and helps one become a better person in their lives.

What have been some of your biggest influences as an artist?

I think my biggest influence as an artist is from some instances during my college days when I saw a lot of intolerance in people. I felt an urge to capture as a photojournalist to voice the voiceless and to capture stories that have the potential the way we think about the world we live in. Experiences of discrimination and unreasonable biases put me in situations where I felt that these visuals must reach the masses because mere writing wouldn't be able to do as much justice to them. My inability to do something for the people I used to capture got me worried and left me in an existential crisis fearing that my work was not going to make any actual change. For a long time, this feeling kept me away from photography. I think taking self-portraits calmed a lot of that restlessness within me and helped me become a more detailed and caring person and I was able to become more observant.

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Who are some artists who are currently on your radar?

Raqs Media Collective is doing a great job in curating unique artworks and collaborating with artists who have some unique elements in their art.

Tell us about a project you wish you were a part of.

I wish I can work with Deepti Asthana. Sometimes, the kind of story she can capture is what I am also looking forward to doing. I also admire the work of Gmb Akash who is able to make real change with his work in the lives of the economically and socially challenged population of his country. Similarly, there are a lot of projects like these by independent photographers that are mind-blowing and inspire me each day to do more to be able to bring about a better change.

View Sifar’s self-portrait series, Aatm Pratkriti below:

Find out more about Mala Sifar here.

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