printied violation press | The Deccan Herald - India

The Deccan Herald | MetroLife | India | November 01, 2016


Portraits of everyday violence


Creating awareness


After having lived in three countries (United States, Canada and India), I observed that women’s issues surpass all countries, cultures, ethnicities and ages. People like us are privileged, to have been educated and living comfortable lives. 

Many women don’t realise this, and therefore don’t see the urgency in fighting for such issues. But we must. We must fight for them and fight for those who are not as lucky. These issues affect each one of us at some level. If women don’t care to fight, the world won’t listen. Which is why, it is more important for women to get involved first,” says Indian-Canadian photographer Bhargavi Joshi, whose latest project PRINTiED Violation sheds lights on the various kinds of violations faced by women.

The nine-image strong monochromatic series features women of different age groups and ethnic origins wearing clothes made from medical gauze to symbolise the wrapping of women’s wounds that the “society is adamant on concealing, instead of crusading against injustice and stopping these violent crimes at their source”.

Every photograph, each as strong and striking as the other, highlights and represents ills like groping, molesting; domestic abuse; objectification of women; rape, force, marital rape and genital mutilation; lack of freedom, whether from education or geography; and female infanticide using black ribbons and hand imprint.

The women in the series are painted white, which according to Bhargavi is to shift the focus from their physical traits, race or culture to the fact that they are women. “White is also associated with purity, a term women in many cultures are forced to identify with and live by. The women are made to look like delicate porcelain figures to symbolise how our patriarchal society regards the female sex as delicate and weak,” she explains, adding “The black paint and ribbon represent how the very same cultures that hold women hostage to purity standards, completely disregard the pain and suffering our society inflicts upon them. 

Black is a bias in itself. It is associated with darkness and negativity.”Driven by an urge to create a body of work that forces the “society to think”, Bhargavi began work on the project about a year ago. “I have, since I can remember, always taken a stand against injustice and violence against women. One night my mind was flooded with various ideas, like I was being set for a mission. Since my approach is about mindful photography, which means having a sense of responsibility towards society for the work I create, I wanted to use my skills and help make a difference,” Bhargavi, who was raised by a family of artists and musicians, tells Metrolife.

Elaborating on her project’s title, the photographer says that when she first designed the campaign (in her head and on rough sketches) all the nine women were to have a black handprint to denote the violation. However, once the storyboard artist made the sketches with proper anatomy, she realised that the handprint didn’t work in every shot, and she decided to use black ribbon for those.

“The original name created was ‘Printed Violation’, but once I had to adapt and add the tied ribbon, I was afraid I would have to change the campaign title. I was staring at the title until I realised that adding an “i” created the word “tied” within my original name. It was a happy accident. Hence it is now called PRINTiED Violation, accommodating the organic evolution of the idea,” she says.

However, there were a lot of stumbling blocks Joshi crossed to take the project where it is today. “I wanted to start a movement, specifically work with people who genuinely cared about the cause. But I was turned down a lot because the project had no monetary value attached to it. I couldn’t believe people couldn’t set aside a single day to help. I was further disappointed to learn that so many professional working women in the industry didn’t see the importance of sending out this important message,” she says.
But there were good times too. The crew that eventually came together was extremely creative and passionate about the cause, and donated their time and skills to making the project a reality. Despite thinking that the casting would be challenging in India considering the subject matter, it turned out to be the easiest, except for finding a pregnant woman. 

“I did not want to use professional models. I wanted to work with women from various walks of life, who would be relatable. Once I explained the concept to them, they were immediately on board; they cared about the cause and wanted to help bring it to light. I refused to use prosthetics. I am stubborn and a perfectionist and risked losing the shot, but I wanted to try until the very end. I believe, every single thing in my frame must have a purpose and mean something,” she says.

Pointing out that there are many other crimes against women including child marriage, human trafficking, flesh trade, and elderly abuse which have not been covered in the series, Bhargavi says she just wanted to create a starting point to generate awareness about the fact that women deal with such issues on an everyday basis.

“I believe in simplicity. The greatest ideas are the simplest ones. I wanted the campaign to be powerful and hard-hitting yet not evoking so much discomfort that people would want to look away. Using subtlety I was able to share my message and encourage people to look on and start thinking about what was trying to be said,” she says.

Presently, she is looking to partner with a national NGO for women to help put these images to good use. “I hope someday they can be used to help raise funds for women’s organisations, and help women in need,” she says.


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Words: Shweta Sharma