Let them tell you their stories

Through digital stories and self portraits, BangaloREsident Sabine Felber has people reflect on safety in public spaces and identity

August 19, 2015 04:35 pm | Updated March 29, 2016 04:23 pm IST - Bengaluru



BangaloREsident, photographer and artist, Sabine Felber does not like to assume or judge, making a powerful statement. In her work at the Goethe-Institut-Max Mueller Bhavan Residency, Sabine has worked on the issues of identity and safety in public spaces and identity.

Following the December 2012 gang rape in Delhi, Sabine wondered what Indians had to say about the situation. “I was planning to do my PhD in Lifelong Learning in Germany. I was sitting at a course where a woman made a point about the importance of learning to protect oneself in the context of the 2012 incident. When I asked her if she had ever been to India, she said she got her information from the media. It was frustrating. I don’t like people making up their minds about other countries based on media reports.” As part of the Residency, Sabine worked with Blank Noise on the I Never Ask for It campaign. “I got in touch with Jasmeen Patheja of Blank Noise. We thought we could do something together. So Goethe Institut, Jasmeen and I agreed to the Residency.”

The participants of the digital stories are Christy Raj, a transgender activist, Sunayana Roy, writer and theatre person, Pushpa Achanta, journalist and activist, and Shakun Doundiyakhed of Vimochana, who reflects on universal issues, from marriage, choosing not to have children, gender and issues of body scale. “Jasmeen is an artist and activist. I am a digital storyteller and a sociologist, but not an activist. I look at the world differently. Like a blank sheet. The participants needed to be aware that their identity and experiences would be on the internet. So we had to ensure that they would be all right, after I had left. I am not trained in psychology. So we decided to ask Action Heroes to share their stories, since they were activists and could share their stories.”

For the self portraits, Sabine worked with 21 women from different backgrounds. “For an expression of safety in Bengaluru, I got a whole spectrum of opinions. I met Nupur Basu, a documentary filmmaker. Together we meet women flower and fruit sellers. I also met cleaners and domestic workers. I only wanted to listen to what people have to say. I didn’t want to have a pre-formulated idea. I put the camera on a tripod, the women had a remote control, and I would leave. I decided I would not interpret anything or give feedback. They were also not allowed to double check the camera to see if they are looking fine or not. The image they created was really about observing their feelings. The idea was for them to take possession of the picture. It’s not about trying to look a particular way. They had to make friends with the picture, with them, with how they really look.”

The exhibition of Sabine’s self-portraits will be on display at the Bhavan till August 31.

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