Yesterday I was humbled. On the third anniversary of her passing, I had the great honour of showing Mr. Badrinath Pandey, father of Jyoti Pandey, our brave Nirbhaya, a selection of my photographs showing as part of the group exhibition Unearthed: Stories of Courage in the Face of Sexual Violence.
My images were featured alongside those of other photographers, all of us participants in The R A P E in India Project, a crowd sourced platform documenting locations and spaces where sexual assaults have occurred, in order to encourage enquiry into social attitudes and structures, around gender and sexual assault and especially, access and design of public spaces, which can often inadvertently, help facilitate such crimes.
Badriji and I discussed how some of the most horrific crimes have occurred in the most banal of locations. My images in the exhibition showed as much, recording how rapes have occurred in a school bus, a shopping mall and the car park of a five star hotel.
I also told Badriji, how The Rape in India Project was born out of the shock at the crime committed against his daughter. How the sheer need to do something has resulted in a simple google search of my area in Calcutta, to discover that a number of other shocking rapes had taken places minutes from my doorstep. I was stunned to learn of one such case, that of Suzette Jordan, a woman raped in a moving car by five men after she left the Park Hotel, somewhere that I had often frequented, assuming it to be safe.
I told him how this project was about collective action, how we could come together as photographers, as citizens, to harness the power of photography for social change. How that we can, perhaps, come together and ensure no father has an experience similar to his.
As I watched him leave through the crowd, bound for the annual vigil marking the death of his daughter, the words he spoke to me moments earlier came to mind, “Let me be the last father to light his daughters funeral pyre.”
See Poulomi’s original Facebook post here