Two sets of works explored sexualities in different ways

Two different yet relevant themes, of homosexuality and sexuality, were explored in a photo exhibition that was part of the 4th Bangalore Queer Film Festival at the Alliance Francaise. The two streams of work, curated by Delhi-based photographer Akshay Mahajan, were “Killing Kittens” by Andrea Fernandes and “Inner Faces” by Gazi Nafis Ahmed.

Fernandes's photographs oozed sexuality, the double-edged sword of the promise of pleasure, to the point of pain at some points. Her photographs were all of women “conquering” social taboos on sexuality (including masturbation), in the discovery of the act that pleasures them.

In her journey to capture these individual stories, Fernandes comes across women who are aroused by burning their feet on the stove, cooking naked wearing only an apron, baring their chests for the world to see or cycling in their non-sexy underwear.

“I've sought out women across the world who conquered the ideas of sexuality that were pushed across to them in their heritage,” says Andrea.

“Roman Catholics consider sexuality as something bad, while in India it is allowed but kept private. There is usually guilt and shame associated with it. But there are women who use these issues to enjoy their sexuality, though sometimes it is traumatic for viewers.”

Even as Andrea's works are cuttingly urban and contemporary in their sense of victory, Gazi Nafis Ahmed's “Inner Face” conveys the subtle sense of challenge in the expressions of the homosexuals in Bangladesh whom he captures.

The black and white series is almost full of profiles of homosexual men who are not very particular about hiding their identity and so they pose, hugging, leaning demurely against a wall or leaning almost seductively on the bed. Sometimes the message itself is hidden, in the shadow produced by fingers shaping a heart, or the hairy legs entwined on the bed.

These photographs too seem to carry that sense of “conquering” social taboos, of trying to become free of the manacles that tie the inborn or acquired identity to social norms. But somewhere along the way, the act of seeking complete freedom for pleasure becomes painful, however relevant it may be, tying itself in a contrary way to the very institution it set out to fight.

Similarly, in trying to become comfortable with the body, it seems as though these subjects give too much thought to it.