Self-taught photographer Achuthanand Ravi captures stories that are a telling social commentary

Achuthanand Ravi’s journey into freelance photography began with the blossoming of a childhood hobby. He has since travelled the country, producing photo documentaries on social issues and subjects of human interest. The 21-year-old, a self-taught photographer published in magazines such as the National Geographic, is also the founder of the Chennai-based photography group ‘Madras In Motion’. “My interest is documenting and telling stories through pictures,” he says.

After capturing the naga sadhus at the Kumbh Mela earlier this year, Achuthanand jumped into Disfigurement, a photo documentary on the lives of acid attack victims in India. “The motive behind this is to create a positive change in the victims as well as in society.” It wasn’t easy to approach the victims due to social stigma and the unwillingness to open up. Achuthanand travelled to Mumbai and the Great Rann of Kutch in search of those who would be willing to be photographed. “It is hard to interview and photograph people who’ve been through so much. I spent a lot of time with each survivor, became familiar to them and then began the documentation,” he says.

Scary reality

Why a documentary on acid attack victims? “Acid attacks are happening at an alarming rate right now in the country. It is estimated that there are 200 to 300 reported cases in a year, and usually, the reasons are family and land disputes, refusal of marriage, and suspicion of infidelity. What is scary is that a significant quality of acid can be easily purchased for less than Rs. 50,” Achuthanand adds. “Today, many victims are denied the right to medial access, care and rehabilitation programmes. This must be brought to light.”

For the documentary, he met nine survivors. “One of them, a young woman from Bangalore was sleeping on a train to New Delhi when a man threw acid on her. A doctor on board realised what had happened and helped her survive by continuously bathing her with water. She didn’t know who her assailant was,” he adds.

Achuthanand works in an HR company by day and night walks as a photographer. “I do most of my editing at night and work on weekends,” he says. His earlier works include the Mahakumbh Mela 2013, a fashion shoot called Lost In Highway, and Beyond Sight, a photo documentary on a visually impaired child.

A million-dollar pic!

His pictures of the Kumbh Mela have garnered good response. He’s particularly thrilled that his photograph of Nigerians in penance was reviewed by Sir Mark Tully, former bureau chief, BBC, New Delhi, and called ‘a million dollar picture’.

His current subjects are the devadasis of Northern Karnataka. “The devadasi custom is still being followed in some parts of Northern Karnataka and Maharashtra,” he says. “Approaching them is relatively easy if you know the local language, and many of them are proud of what they are. They willingly share their stories and the hardships they face.” He hopes to work on a photo documentary on slaughter houses soon.

You can find Achuthanand’s pictures on his Facebook page.