Our feisty photographers were at The Kala Ghoda Festival 2012 (KGF) to showcase the works of the photography team of Dekha Undekha. A couple of days earlier, it had been hectic – selecting the photos, printing, mounting and readying the exhibition stall. A mad rush later, Sunita D’ Souza and Asma B. Qasim found themselves representing their team and strolling down the unusually crowded Rampart Row.
The exhibition at Kala Ghoda was the resultant effort of mentor-photojournalist Sudharak Olwe’s workshops with the photography team. The photographs chosen for the exhibition highlighted a slice of Dharavi life. The joys and travails of monsoon, children playing, mothers and populous homes were powerful stories of vulnerable humanity living in harsh, extreme conditions.
It was quite a thrill to see the many followers of the KGF take in the poignant photos. Asma and Sunita asked onlookers for their reactions to the photography exhibition. For most people at the KGF, Dharavi is a place they pass en route to work. To stop and observe the more detailed conditions of life over there was something they did not do very often.
Photographs have the power of revealing the truth in a passing moment. Abhijeet Umathe, who was there with his family, remarked how the photographs showed the indifference of the people living in Dharavi. “Their indifference is different from ours. They live in abject conditions but do not seem to mind it all. For example, this boy is playing cricket right in the middle of a dump yard,” he continued pointing to one of the photos. While Abijeet seemed moved, his five year old daughter begged to differ.
The possibility of indifferent voyeurism always threatens such an exhibition. Dharavi, as the centre of sordidness and poverty, could induce pity in the audience. But Sunita and Asma do not agree with this. In fact, what they noticed at the KGF was that people really connected with the events in the photos. Sunita mentions how viewers loved the mother and child photos and Asma observes that when people saw the photos in which children played and were reminded of their childhood days. Both went on to add that even at the risk of voyeurism, it is important to highlight the conditions in which people live in Dharavi. Much change is required.
For these two ladies, the exhibition was a real eye opener. Asma says that she was offered a compliment that “There is a lot of energy in your photos.” But, when you see passersby click photos of your photographs, there is really no need for a greater compliment.