Sacred Transformations: poignant tales of acid attack survivors captured though Niraj Gera’s lens

Sacred Transformations

When acid attack survivors announced their protest at Jantar Mantar in New Delhi in 2014, against the open sale of acid, asking the government to ensure strict regulation for the same, photographer Niraj Gera attended the event out of curiosity. Seeing the women who had survived the gruesome attacks and had struggled to reclaim their lives, he was determined to do something that would help change the way the society views them. And thus was born the idea of ‘Sacred Transformations’.

Gera was appalled at the way the lives of the women had been affected by these attacks. He could sense the anger, pain and helplessness that they carried and decided to use his craft to share their stories with a larger audience.

As a believer in the power of a visual medium, Gera decided to create a series of images that the viewers could connect to – beyond societal prescriptions of beauty. This series is his attempt to make society not just aware but more sensitive towards acid attack survivors.

It took Gera two years – meeting the women, interacting with them, and documenting their inspiring journeys – to put together a collection of 36 photographs which was exhibited at Aparna Caur Gallery. In an interview with DNA India, Gera said that the biggest challenge he faced for this project was that of ‘behavioural adjustment’, explaining “I tried to make sure that I do not hurt their sentiments or trigger any painful instances but at the same time I did not hold myself back from getting to know and understand them.”

What is the message behind Niraj Gera’s exhibition?

Gera’s photographs of the acid attack survivors drive viewers to rise above superficial sympathy and perceive them as humans with strong wills who have overcome the terrible repercussions of the acid attacks- physical, emotional and societal too. It challenges people to ask questions about what gender-based violence is and what responses to it can be.

Image credit: Asian Age

That the exhibition can enable even one viewer to take away deeper awareness – empathy, compassion – and this inspires them to go out and create change, is testament to its powerful eloquence.

To view more of Gera’s photography, visit his website or Facebook page.

Written by Anisha Kashwani

Featured image source: Niraj Gera


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