Role Models and Power Relations, a photography exhibition on the sands of Elliot’s Beach captures women’s angst and joy

The woman walks through a crowded road, hands folded. She is expressionless, but the crowd around her is not. Some crane their heads to turn and look at her. Some men stare blatantly while others glance over her shoulder. Even a woman turns to look at her. That’s what Role Models and Power Relations, a photography exhibition curated by Else Gabriel and Andreas Rost in collaboration with Goethe-Institut hopes to explore these meaningful pictures. The exhibition, fittingly, is being held on the sands of Elliot’s Beach, Besant Nagar.

The works of 11 photographers are placed on tall wooden stilts and as they scream out across the sands and the waters, many passersby stop to watch.

The roar of the waves and the silent pull of the evening breeze lend a different atmosphere to a visual debate on man-woman relationship and conflict. One black-and-white series is of a woman in a regal gown walking past a road. She is alone as she crosses a long wall. A shadow lurks ahead. In another picture, she is shown from neck down, standing against a brick wall; while in another her eyes are closed as she stands close to a historic arch. Perhaps this is to portray how women have been seen through time.

Another series examines women at their most vulnerable. A group of women, old and young are asked to scream. The result is revealing. Some open their eyes in shock, their whole body is frozen while others, unperturbed by the photographer, merely scream with a crinkly eyed smile. Quite like the photograph where a woman walks through a crowded street is another in which a young girl in a salwar-kameez is aboard a crowded bus. A woman looks over her shoulder while the men around, with blackened faces, stare at her. One is reminded of the constant conflict and the imminent dangers a woman faces outside her home.

The transgender series is also very impressive, and at times, provocative. In one, a group of three stands in darkness. The photo is shot from the other side of a railing and seems to focus on their marginalisation.

Similarly, in another, a transwoman is seen changing into a sari in the comfort of her home. The image is provocative and passersby stop to stare. But has the message of inner and outer conflict come through?