Chennai: Serene, yet fierce. This is what photographer Akhila Vijayaraghavan conveys as part of her series ‘Fierce’ at the Chennai Photo Biennale 2019 at Government College of Fine Arts, Egmore.
In conversation with News Today, Akhila shares the reasons behind her project and more. “It was a combination of several narratives that prompted me to take this up. First the modern wave of feminism portrayed in popular media challenges womanhood which is empowering and disruptive. I wanted to see if I can change it through photography by juxtaposing it with subjects like body image, mental health and harassment and bring a nuance to the narrative,” says Akhila.
Her project, an ongoing one, narrates stories of women through the lens of sport and physical activity, in an off-the-wall way. “I began to work out after several years that had a positive effect on the way I perceived myself,” says the photographer who started out as a wildlife and street photographer.
For Akhila, nothing is more liberating than using your body for movement as she herself is a fitness enthusiast that give her a sense of focus and purpose that keeps her spirits up.
“I wanted to reach out to women who identified themselves with working-out and stay positive. However, it is not just about body confidence, but also psychological balance. The project provided an opportunity to reach out to women from my tribe and see how committed they are towards their bodies and minds by prioritising their health first,” explained Akhila, who is also an environmental consultant.
“It is in the nature of sport to push a person to their physical limits. Whether one is a professional athlete or a casual sportsperson, aspiring to go beyond what your body is capable of shows us that all limits exist only in the mind. ‘Fierce’ is a series that attempts to tell these stories,” she adds.
Talking about the challenges she encountered, the photographer says, “While I did not encounter any choosing the subjects, technically there were a few issues. I did not have additional tools to balance the lighting. The photographs were shot in different places as I did not have control over the light source.”
“My photographs are just not monochrome portrait shots but also include an element in the background or foreground about the personality,” she points out.
What was her inspiration? “This project continues to inspire me to tell my own truth and my own story. In these times when women’s bodies are still treated as commodities and they are seldom taught to have ownership of their bodies, looking at images that portray women doing activities that empower them becomes a rebellion in its own merit.”