BY: KRUPA JOSEPH
All photos by: Bhargavi Joshi
For over 13 years, Indian-Canadian Bhargavi Joshi has been trying to tell stories about the things that she cares about through her photography. Photographs helps cut across languages and culture, allowing her to spread the message of her choice. “I believe photography can be a powerful medium if used correctly, I am therefore using photography to help start conversations about important issues that plague our world today,” she explains.
Hailing from a family of visual artists, film-makers and architects, Joshi was always sure that she would end up in a creative profession. She grew up in Mumbai and Toronto, and later on, went on to pursue a degree in Applied Photography from Sheridan College, Toronto. Annie Leibovitz and Stan Musilek were some of the photographers who inspired and shaped her creative path. With her skills, she hopes to create beautiful pictures that force people to think.
Growing up, she realized that the problems women faced weren’t reserved for the poor or third world countries. “I want to show the world that these horrible human rights violations against women, is a universal phenomenon. It transcends all races, cultures and socio-economic backgrounds. I wanted to create attractive imagery that would hold people’s attention and create a stark reminder of the issues women world over face. I want to create awareness of the existence of these problems. My most important goal, however, is to help victims of abuse and those in need get real help.”
It is the result of her efforts to highlight issues such as sexism, violence, oppression and injustice, and she does so in her series ‘PRINTiED VIOLATION’. The collection showcases nine women dressed in white, adorned with stoic expressions and black ribbons or paint. A single glance towards the picture is enough to understand the photographer’s effort. Every image is indicative of abuse that women face.
Joshi explains the psyche behind the series. “The women are painted white, so as to shift the focus from their physical traits, race or culture to the fact that they are women. White is also associated with purity, a term women in many cultures are forced to identify with and live by,” she explains. The black paint and ribbon, she says, represent how the very same cultures that hold women hostage to purity standards, completely disregard the pain and suffering our society inflicts upon them. The women in the series are made to look like delicate porcelain figures to symbolize how our patriarchal society regards the female sex as delicate and weak. “The clothes have been draped using white medical gauze to symbolize the wrapping of women’s wounds that society is adamant on concealing, instead of crusading against injustice and stopping these violent crimes at their source. Finally, the wardrobe shows clothes from daily situations in women’s lives to portray that these problems aren’t reserved just for the poor and third world countries. They affect women from all financial backgrounds and all walks of life.” She also made it a point to use women from varying ethnicities and age groups in order to show that regardless of these differences, women suffer.
A good photograph must be able to inspire the viewers, which is exactly what Joshi aims to do with her work. “I want the photographs to show that these struggles are very real. Every single woman will be victim to one or more of these violations in her lifetime.” She made it a point to represent problems ranging from groping and molestation to the way in which women are silenced in both professional and domestic spheres. “We want these images to start the conversation that society avoids. We hope it will inspire people to take action against the injustice, help victims get help and educate men and women so we may prevent them from happening in the future. Each image will hold a different truth to each viewer, reflecting his/her own truth and experiences. I don’t want women to be alone in this fight. This fight belongs to all of us,” she shares.
Joshi hopes to partner with an international women’s organization, in order to gain worldwide attention towards the campaign, while also being able to gain contact with women in need. At the moment she has about 12 more campaigns she wishes to shoot. The issues she hopes to address through the work ranges from misogyny, human trafficking, to child and elderly abuse, LGBTQ rights and animal rights. “I have so much to do, I just need to figure out a way to fund them. Since they have no commercial value, no one wants to invest in them,” she explains. “I hope after seeing PRINTiED VIOLATION people come forward to help us make the other campaigns a reality too, and together we can all become a part of something bigger than all of us. We can all help make a difference.”
Scroll down to see some of the images from the series. You can also follow Joshi’s work on Facebook.