‘Can you please cover your face with your shawl, my daughter is getting scared seeing you’?’ This is what a co-passenger told the acid attack survivor Neetu when she was travelling in a shared auto,” says Niraj Gera, who has pictorially narrated the transformation of acid attack survivors into confident firebrands through his lens.
About 40 photographs of seven girls will be displayed at an upcoming exhibition, Sacred Transformations, in the city. “The shoots took me two-and-a-half years. I was inspired to shoot the survivors when I attended a protest by them at Jantar Mantar, back in 2014. They were protesting against the open sale of acid, as well as demanding jobs. I first met them at the Parliament Street police station. I saw most of the survivors behind bars. They were taken in custody for protesting. And one of them, sitting outside, shared her story with me. The protest of these survivors made me do something for their social acceptance,” says Gera.
Dressed up as models, the girls exude grace and poise in the photographs. Some sway their hair while others blow glitter in the camera lens. “The way in which Niraj was clicking pictures, he inspired me. He says he was inspired seeing us, but I found inspiration in his work,” says Laxmi, an acid attack survivor, and activist.
The lensman says that he invested himself in this project, to try and bring a change in the lives of acid attack survivors. “I am an artist and a social worker and wanted to portray their emotions through my work,” says Gera.
He says that it isn’t just females who have survived acid attacks, but even men. “I have even met a boy who was an acid attack survivor. I wanted to take his pictures, too, and contacted him, but I guess he wasn’t comfortable being clicked. The freedom and inner confidence of the acid attack survivors is something that can come through only after social acceptance,” adds Gera.
- What: Sacred Transformations
- Where: Arpana Caur Gallery, August Kranti Marg
- On till: March 12
- Timings: 11am to 7pm
- Nearest Metro Station: Green Park on Yellow Line