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World Photography Day: Viewing the LGBTQ community through the lens of this Mumbai group

The group, QGraphy — an amalgam of ‘queer’ and ‘photography’ — was founded by charted accountant Raj Pandey in October 2014

mumbai Updated: Aug 20, 2017 16:24 IST
Gayle Sequeira
QGraphy captured two of 700 participants at the Pune LGBT Pride at Sambhaji Park on June 11.
QGraphy captured two of 700 participants at the Pune LGBT Pride at Sambhaji Park on June 11.(HT)

From a queer film festival to a transgender dancing troupe — a Mumbai group has been capturing the city’s changing LGBTQ landscape on film since 2014. On World Photography Day, HT takes a picturesque trip down memory lane with them.

The group, QGraphy — an amalgam of ‘queer’ and ‘photography’ — was founded by charted accountant Raj Pandey. While reading the comments on an LGBTQ group for Mumbaiites, he thought of starting a forum for those passionate about photography.

The group captured this moment during QueerKala’s ‘Queer Hugs’ campaign at Marine Drive in 2015. (HT)

“Photography overrides the barriers of language, helps you connect with your emotions and allows you to share your story with the world. When you click a photograph, you not only capture that moment, you also preserve that memory. I wanted to highlight the LGBTQ community, its people, events and the movement in an artistic manner. That’s why I chose this medium,” he said.

Pandey contacted HR professional Kartik Sharma, one of the commenters, and the two set up a Facebook page. The idea was an instant success, with 30 people signing up on the first day. In two years, the group has gained 1,200-plus members, some from across the world.

The most recent event the group covered was a fund-raiser at which Dancing Queens, India’s first transgender-led dancing group, performed at Damodar Hall on June 30. (HT)

Aman Altaf, a physician who lives in Chicago, joined the group after a friend recommended it to him. “People from different continents have now become like a family to me. We’ve bonded over shared interests and seen each other grow more confident of our talents over time,” he said.

The first major event the group covered was the Kashish Mumbai International Queer Film Festival in May 2015. “This opened other avenues for us and we then covered the Gay Bombay Talent Show in 2015 and 2016,” said Sharma.

Rainbow Voices, India’s first LGBT choir, and the Pink Singers, an LGBT choir from London at NCPA photographed by the group in January. (HT)

The biggest event the group has covered so far? The Queer Azaadi Mumbai Pride March in 2015 and 2016, for which it was the official coverage partner for photography and videography. The most recent? A fundraiser organised by the Transgender Welfare Equity and Empowerment Trust India Foundation, where the ‘Dancing Queens’ — a prominent group of transgender people from across India — performed.

“The LGBT scene is constantly evolving and changing. With increased awareness, participation and support has also grown,” said Pandey.

The group has been capturing the city’s changing LGBTQ landscape on film since 2014. This photo was clicked during a wall painting event organised by Aravani Art Project and Humsafar Trust last year. (HT)

At this year’s Mumbai Pride March, held in January, the group joined 14,000 attendees and clicked a whopping three albums’ worth of photos.

When they’re not faced with a daunting workload, members like to kick back and relax through their various photo walks. They’ve feasted at Mohammed Ali Road during Ramzan, gone on nature trails through the Vikhroli Mangroves and held a monsoon picnic in Karjat.

Signing up is as easy as sending a message to the Facebook page or emailing qgraphygroup@gmail.com. If you’re still in two minds, the group is quick to reassure you that not all of its members are professional photographers. “You don’t need to own a state-of-the-art camera to sign up. Some of our most talented photographers use only their mobile phones. We value enthusiasm over expensive equipment,” said Sharma.