Photographer Arjun Kamath’s latest photo story centres around anxiety

Titled The Anxiety Series, the photo story puts Indians’ experiences with anxiety under the lens, and backs them up with poetry

Updated - May 26, 2020 10:44 am IST

Published - May 25, 2020 04:51 pm IST

A photograph from Bengaluru photographer Arjun Kamath’s series on anxiety featuring Shweta Tripathi

A photograph from Bengaluru photographer Arjun Kamath’s series on anxiety featuring Shweta Tripathi

A moment of reflection amid a sea of chaos: the lone school boy sporting a touch of makeup is caught in the middle of boisterous ridicule by his friends; a homemaker finds herself in a numbing circle of unending chores. Bengaluru-based photographer Arjun Kamath’s latest photo story captures the different faces of anxiety through carefully crafted, sombre images. Titled The Anxiety Series, the central characters in each frame are personifications of mental illnesses that mostly lie latent and undiscussed.

Take for instance, this particular frame: a violent scene shows an old man being forcefully carried away by a bunch of people sporting orange blobs for heads, to the backdrop of fire burning in the distance. Though open to multiple interpretations, this frame could be a pictorial representation of anxiety attacks as often, they strike without warning. For some people, the experience is all-consuming, like fire.

One of the photographs from the series

One of the photographs from the series

Such correlations are what Arjun wants to evoke from the audience, through this series. The restricted conversation about mental health and the callous dismissal of it, as purely a “first world problem”, are what led him to this project. Though it was conceptualised in late 2019, it gets renewed meaning amid COVID-19, since the pandemic’s toll on people’s mental health has been recognised as significant.

Arjun’s trials with photo stories began as early as 2012. “The stories that I like to tell are the ones that make people take note of a possible issue,” says Arjun, whose photo story titled Coming Out, centred around a homosexual relationship and starring actor Shraddha Srinath, went viral and was featured by the United Nations. A series on female infanticide followed, based on the stories he heard from his mother, who is a gynaecologist.

One of the photographs from The Anxiety Series

One of the photographs from The Anxiety Series

The idea for The Anxiety Series took shape when Arjun had taken a break from work, and felt himself being triggered by even small incidents. “Every little thing started bothering me. After doing a bit of research, I started thinking of how someone with anxiety disorders would feel in such situations, if I had felt this way without any major triggers,” says Arjun. This helped him relate.

Telling images

He also realised that the photographs that capture this aspect of mental illness, often discuss it through a Western lens. “I wanted to talk about the people who are seen around me, those I grew up with,” says the photographer. Each of the frames is paired with a poem, also written by Arjun.

One of the challenges he faced was to portray anxiety as an internal experience. A person grappling with anxiety might sport a happy demeanour: the frames were constructed keeping in mind the subtlety of the experience. Under the purview of anxiety, Arjun discusses forms of the illness that he has seen up close.

Bengaluru photographer Arjun Kamath

Bengaluru photographer Arjun Kamath

Elements from personal observations and stories are a vital part of these frames. “Every character was talked about and discussed extensively,” says Arjun, adding that every shot shows a different world and hence there was no single, overarching colour palette. His crew consists of Wardha Ahamed(Styling/Costumes); Pragna Krishna, Priyanka R K, Sharanya Uday (Makeup and Hair); Studio Slip (Production Design), Vinit Dodamani (Assistant Director) and Suhail (Casting).

About his future plans with this project, Arjun says, “I am planning to make a video of the series with the voiceover of the poem. Even if one person feels a sense of consolation after looking through this work, it would be worth it.”

The Anxiety Series can be viewed on Instagram at @arjunkamath87 or at

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