Freeze Frames Capture Anxieties of Women in The Unsafe Urban Spaces

107

By Monobina Gupta, Womens Feature Service

Cities usually tend to be defined by the images of cement and mortar they bear on their bodies. The innumerable highways are imposing and formidable. The structures are of architectural genius. Rarely, the cities find an expression in images crafted around the diverse experiences of women, their fears and anxieties as they access different urban spaces.

In the absence of this genre of constructing city spaces, “Transportaits: Women and Mobility in the City”, is an exhibition of photographs organised by Jagori. It was on display in New Delhi to mark the Third International Conference on Women’s Safety in Delhi.It is truly remarkable.

The collage of spaces sometimes cast shadows. At other times illuminated by a patch of light. It reveals the often invisible subtext underlining cities. The pictures capture these spaces as they are experienced by women regardless of their age, class or creed.

Like the varied subjects in the photographs, those who have wielded the camera have drawn upon their diverse skills as writers, artists, activists, community workers, photographers. “Transportraits” includes a wide selection of entries from the public from the amateurs and professionals. It will travel in Delhi and to other cities in India.

A series of images woven around the theme “Streetlights” brings to the fore how the absence of basic infrastructure such as streetlights can contribute to women’s vulnerability. The atreetlights help women navigate the streets and the alleys particularly after dusk.

An eerie quality fills the image of Jaya Das returning home in Delhi’s Madanpur Khadar after a day’s work. She was picking her way under the gaze of unknown men hanging around the place. The image of a lone woman in a patch of light, walking down a street shrouded in shadows, is a jolting reminder of the empowering function of streetlights. It can go a long way in making public spaces safe.

The group put together the pictures and the accompanying texts at a workshop conducted by LUCIDA. It is an organization founded in April 2010 by four post graduate students of the Photography Design Program at the National Institute of Design.

Through the medium of photography, the young residents have

conveyed their perceptions and their experiences of safety in public spaces.

In “Her Walk Home”, photojournalist Ruhani Kaur captures the loneliness and the uneasiness of a lone woman walking down a lonely street with the shadow of a man trailing her.

“Y R U LOOKING AT ME’ is an exhibit put together by Blank Noise. It is a volunteer-led collectives which has initiated a public dialogue on eve teasing. It shows their action heroes at a traffic signal in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi and Mumbai

Delhi-based photographer, Gauri Gill is the curator of

“Transportraits.” She wrote in her curatorial note the theme of conference which is “Building Inclusive Cities.” Its aim is to bring together a diverse international community that is working in the fields of safe cities for women, women’s rights and violence against women.

“Transportraits” is an extraordinary way of framing city spaces within the feminist grid of anxieties and insecurities of women as they enter the city. The poor infrastructure, unsafe public transport, male dominated parks and bus stops bring anxieties also from the city’s hostility towards women.

In the course of their journeys, women through the ages have searched for, explored and discovered new paths to reach their destinations safely.

A visual manifestation relate to the situation of women in the cities. The exhibition is put up at a time when violence against women is on the rise notwithstanding countless laws that exist only on paper to protect women. Even as cities acquire new accessories of modern society, they have restricted their mobility and devise strategies to ensure their personal safety in public spaces.