They broke the chains and threw off the shackles

Savita, a taxi driver in Delhi, is one of the muses of photographer Nicolaus Schmidt.  

Photographer Nicolaus Schmidt was part of the Terre des Hommes Germany-India Programme in the late 1980s that focused on supporting projects for women and children. More than 20 years later when he visited India in 2011, he was surprised to see that nothing much had been achieved or changed.

However, he found that many women in urban and rural areas broke the shackles of society to work and display strength. Mr. Schmidt visited India again in 2013 and took photographs of women to reflect their situation of being caught between tradition, religion and modern age.

His exhibition titled ‘Diversity and Strength: Photographs of Women in India’ is on at the Art Gallery, Kamaladevi Complex at the India International Centre. It is a collection of photographs taken during his visits to Maharashtra, West Bengal, Uttar Pradesh, Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh and Delhi.

His photographs are free of representation of caste, status or class as viewed by an outsider and reveals existing social structures, their power invisible till this point. The hard work and determination of women to live a better life shines through in his photographs.

Taking visitors through his photographs, Mr. Schmidt talks about a woman taxi driver who picked him in New Delhi and how men kept staring at her because it was unique for a woman to be driving a taxi. He was surprised that in the middle of New Delhi this was the reaction she was getting.

Another series that he has clicked in Delhi tells the story of a girl in Mongolpuri who was harassed by men and received no support from the authorities or her parents when she reported the incident. The girl formed a street-theatre group who went about spreading awareness about crimes against women and how one must not stay silent. He has contrasted the photo of the street play with other images from across Delhi and pictures of Bollywood posters to tell a story about Indian society.

The poster girl of his exhibition is Urmila Gorakh, who was present at the launch after travelling by train for the first time.

Mr. Schmidt says there are many good laws in the country but unless these laws seep into the mindset of society nothing will change. The new generation has to be sensitised and targeted to bring about a change, he says.

As part of the exhibition, there will be a discussion on Januray 21 at 3 30 p.m. on ‘Extraordinary Women Ushering in Change’. The exhibition is on till January 27.

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Printable version | Jul 23, 2021 9:52:07 AM |

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