Published on March 22nd, 2014 | by Vidisha Fadescha0
“Beauty in the Blur”
Photographer Indu Antony on the transgender community in Bangalore, India.
Indu Antony has engaged with the queer community in India (primarily Bangalore) for almost four years now. She through her various photographic projects offers people a space to perform their fancies.
Here’s a conversation I had with Indu:
“My engagement began through friends, and by attending various queer events in the city [Bangalore.] I was at a book reading by a transgender person. The person sitting next to me was showing her earring that she newly bought. It was how any other woman acknowledges her clothes in a conversation, one of the first instances that broke my own stereotype. While I got to know the community better over time, many mentioned how they were tired of projects about their lives, the sadness and the pain they go through, in typical documentary style. And would like to have fun instead. So, I offered to take pictures according to how they wanted to look in front of the camera, instead of me forcing them to be a particular person, this was the project ‘Beauty in the Blur.’ Similarly people performing drag kings in the project ‘Manifest.’ ”
Addressing the “blur”, Indu mentions, “The first thing that comes to ones mind [ed- in India] about the transgender community is that they clap their hands and come to you at traffic signals, or in a train. Even my mother asked me not to look at them when they come close to you. I wanted to break this one way of looking at something.”
“I worked with the male-to-female (m2f) community in ‘Beauty in the Blur.’ Here are Jogappas, Kothi as well as Hijras. It’s like a caste system within the transgender community. I interacted with people who expressed interested in the project, and some mentioned these particulars. Like, Hijra community is primarily a Muslim dominated community, performing many Muslim rituals. They are all performing different rituals, and have different deities. This varies in different states.”
On question about class she mentions, “It’s not class oriented, that’s another stereotype. I have met people very well educated, upper middle class, high class families.”
“The “blur” also works in form of denial. “I don’t want to see”, “I will not look at it again.” So I say, “Here’s beauty please look.” Many of these photographs were eye openers to many people who saw them. They couldn’t think of these people being transgender.”
“Beauty in the Blur” has been exhibited in Bangalore, Hyderabad, and travelled with Goldman Sachs & Co. This work was not only shown at an art space [“1 Shanthi Road” at Bangalore] but also in the corridors of a Management School and an Entrepreneur meet, which Indu also participated in.
At this meet people were collaborating on new projects, so Indu proposed to them to employ people from the transgender community. She also organized the first meeting between the CEO and the community. From here she describes the downfall, “Many people from the community didn’t know how to give an interview and the CEOs didn’t know what were the appropriate questions to be asked. They would ask questions like “What kind of hobbies do you people have?” similar to asking, what do people in your community eat? Which is very disrespectful. And I had to explain that these are humans too. Likewise a person who was giving an interview took the CEOs phone and starting going through his pictures. So both sides needed a lot of polishing.
Then people from ‘Parivarthan’, a counseling center in Bangalore came forward. This is a volunteer based training center where you can teach people different languages or corporate skill sets. And the community members are being trained here. But it was a lot more administrative work that I was interested in. So I passed it on to another person.”
I mentioned to Indu that I had attended a seminar of doctors, where a consultant was giving a presentation on Endocrine Gland. At hospitals in India when a baby is born, the first questioned which is asked to the doctor is “Kya hua hai?” [“What has taken birth?”] if it’s a boy, it’s great news and if it’s a girl, many times an upsetting news, but in case of intersex babies, it’s very difficult to reply. So if the chromosome of this child in XY more effort to operate it is made than in case of XX.
“The one thing I have been told consistently from the female-to-males (f2m) is that their parents are happy that they finally have the boy they dreamed of.”
Indu is engaging further with the community, alongwith with sharing events in their daily life, she is waiting for more exchanges. Her works have been shown at other public venues as well.
You can see more work by Indu Antony at http://induantony.com/