ARCHANA VIKRAM | THE UNWELCOME
Archana Vikram’s project, The Unwelcome, shines a wrenching light on the untold horrors of female infanticide in India. Vikram brings us metaphorical images of ways new-born girls are killed soon after their birth. The photographs simultaneously capture the ephemeral nature of these short lives, and the cruelty of how they end. The sense of indifference with which they are discarded cries out of each photograph, leaving innumerable, perhaps unanswerable, questions in its wake. - Editor
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What brought you to photography?
A strong desire to realise images as I saw them in my mind's eye rather than what the eye saw is what led me to photography. As a child, I don't recall ever having a camera. Almost a decade ago, I took to photography as a decisive channel for expression of my emotions and of subjects that impact me & matter to me. That continues to drive my photographic practice today. My images as they are realised, are an insight into who I am.
Who are your photographic influences?
The ability of masters such as Brassai, Richard Avedon, Edward Weston, Ruth Bernhardt and Brian Duffy to "bring life" to their photographs - that has had the most impact for me. However, I continue to be amazed by the works of many friends and fellow photographers and their very individual visions.
Tell us about the steps and processes that go into making your photographs.
At the heart of my imagery - both architectural and fine art- lies an inherent need and desire to understand the subject. Delving deep into researching a subject gives me the required direction and the inspiration on the treatment of the subject. I often pursue various approaches to a body of work until the images match up to my intent and emotion. My architectural imagery is invariably the result of visualizing the architects' design and intent. The structure and the purpose play a big role in defining the perspective. The materials employed and their utility adding dimensions that are otherwise missed when looking at the structure in its entirety.
What does being a photographer bring to your life?
Being a person of few words, photography to me is a language - a means of expressing so much that I would like to communicate but isn't verbalized. To me, being a photographer is fulfilling, satisfying and therapeutic. A big part of the satisfaction is being passionate about my work and enjoying what I do on a daily basis. But being able to combine my professional skills with causes that I care about deeply, brings that passion to a whole new level. It makes me who I am.
What is this project about?
‘The Unwelcome’ is an attempt to bring to light the untold horrors of female infanticide routinely practiced in India. A strong preference for a male child is embedded in the cultural fabric of India. A boy is considered an asset, a girl merely a liability. Denied basic education, healthcare, adequate clothing, nutrition and nourishment is the lot of many a girl child in India. But many just don't make it that far.
To this day, unborn and new-born girls are often eliminated within hours or days of birth in various parts of India. Prayers and efforts for the next born to be the much coveted and awaited boy commence without a pause.
This gender bias cuts across economic sections of Indian society. What differs is merely the manner of disposal. Self-preservation however is clearly a priority as family and caregivers adopt gruesome, prolonged methods to kill the infant girl to escape scrutiny and detection.
Each image represents the unimaginable ways multitudes of beautiful but frail lives are cut short. The images act as a window to the savagery that exists and as a call for action and rejection of the cover of indifference it has thrived beneath.