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things I can't say out loud

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After eight years of living away from my home, I returned to share space with my family in the midst of the pandemic. The distance suddenly made me cognisant of a family structure that was earlier invisible to me – especially my mother’s position in the family. Wifehood and motherhood have wearied her more than age has. The comfort with which she has been taken for granted hangs heavy in the air of our house. This comfort began to bother me.

Visiting my mother’s family archives gave me a glimpse into the life of her mother, and her mother’s mother. I wondered about the lives these women led before they became wives and mothers and the stories which were never photographed – the ones which did not find their place in the family album. This prompted me to start a dialogue with my mother. Our conversations began taking form as photographs.

The act of photographing became collaborative and performative, allowing us to create a space to free ourselves, to talk about things we had never said before. We spoke about her childhood and mine, the fears we grew up with, the burdens we carry. While photographing I often asked myself - How can photography show the unseen? When I talk about stories which are invisible from family archives, how do I show these through my photographs, which is a visual medium? This question became an important line of inquiry.

The history of patriarchy, like in the rest of the world, runs deep in my family. Through this work, I want to confront the subtle and not so subtle forms of patriarchy which have seeped into my mother’s life, and in turn mine, asking us to romanticize this role of ‘giving’ as the absolute pinnacle of achievement in a woman’s life.

riti98@gmail.com

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