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Arunima Maharshi

IWB Blogger

Photographer Arjun Kamath Talks About The Need For Us To Be More Open Minded And Inclusive As A Society

  • IWB Post
  •  May 16, 2018

How it happens sometimes that you steer ahead with an agenda, but midway through, the journey directs towards another destination, and though unplanned but you can’t be more thankful for the newfound insight and direction. Now it may sound a little too insanely profound, but I’ll tell you why I’m taking this road to tell you about what happened today.

It is ‘International Day Against Homophobia, Transphobia and Biphobia’ tomorrow, and IWB has decided to bring forth the many heard as well as unheard issues that the LGBTQ community has to face. And for the same we got in touch with artists, activists, and people who either belong or are associated with the said communities.

Two years ago, a photo project ‘Coming Out’ had come out, and as I recollect, with it had come out many real stories in many homes. Where am I directing you? To a phenomenal visual storyteller and photographer, Arjun Kamath’s take on a lesbian couple’s love story through photographs! Arjun showed it beautifully and without beautifying it unnecessarily, a powerful photo story, it also brought to surface the perception that a large part of our society still holds for the LGBTQ community.

And so I called Arjun to dig a bit into his experience and gather some insights. Getting back to the road I mentioned to you in the beginning, here walks in its relevance – We’d started with discussing the intended agenda, but somewhere along the conversation, he touched on another relevant issue and now here I am, connecting the two destinations for you.

Arjun Kamath

Arjun Kamath

Arjun Kamath

Arjun is a photographer whose photo documentaries if you see, with an open mind (mind you), you will find yourself looking beyond what the visuals have to offer. And what lies in there is the true reflection of his (the artist’s) thought and intention.

While studying film-making in LA, Arjun had friends who were gay, and it was all pretty normal. But there were things he observed and which he gathered from their lives that he thought of addressing through his art when he later moved to India. “I had friends who were gay and leading comfortable lives but then there were also who weren’t able to. And who because of not being able to open up, were married to a person of opposite sex. I am not an activist, but I chose to talk about the said cause because I felt for it. It is disheartening to see that the society’s lack of acceptance restricts many lives from blossoming.”

And being able to resonate with his ideology, I agreed when he said that as much as we say that we don’t care, but at the end of the day we have to live with the same society, and it is must that we make ourselves and others understand the importance of accepting people for how they are. “You need not support, but don’t condemn someone for their choice. Whether from LGBTQ community or not, every individual needs and deserves an open environment to express. It is a long road, but we need to keep working towards nullifying the existence of many unfair biases.”

Arjun received a lot of praise and love for his story, and a lot of people wrote to him expressing how his visual story made things a bit easier for them. And while that made him feel like his purpose got met to some extent, but it didn’t blindfold him from the reality. “With the advent of social media, every person has got a voice, and though it has its positives but there are just as many negatives, too. The discouragement that flows in, regardless of the intention with which you have created something, may not cease you from doing what you do, but it certainly restricts you. And at some point also kills the joy and hope of the artist.”

“That said, I am going to continue creating and speaking my mind through it. But art should be able to thrive fearlessly, and for that to happen, people need to be more accepting.”

On that note, you should see this another photo project of his’, ‘The Awakening‘, through which he wanted to highlight on the need of ‘women safety’. But while the story received lot of appreciation from across the country, few people decided to call a segment of the story ‘rape porn‘. Shot tastefully and aesthetically, it’s a very twisted way to perceive something straightforward and that actually made Arjun question himself as an artist. “It forced me to think that if it really was worth it!”

And then there’s one of his current photo projects that depicts his thoughts on ‘peaceful coexistence’, and his questions on ‘curiosity’:

We’re all like snowflakes. We may seem similar from a distance, but if we look more closely, we’re all worlds apart in the most beautiful way. Before making assumptions about someone we see or meet, or even before labelling ourselves as “something” or “someone”, it wouldn’t hurt to take a deep breath, show some patience and, most importantly, try to be genuinely accepting of both others and ourselves. God is in both the details and the differences, so they say, and it’s the little differences in us all that imbue freshness to the dawn of each new day. To embrace our differences and celebrate our similarities is nothing other than the celebration of humanity itself, which is the urgent need of the hour . . We’re all unique, with our own peculiarities and idiosyncrasies. No two people are alike, just as no two snowflakes are alike. But there are others who insist that, for all our differences, we’re all, in the end, just snowflakes. We’re all born different, and we are all raised differently by different parents with different values, norms, principles and even cultures. When we are born, we are a blank page that will be filled with life’s experiences. It’s only over a period of time, as we evolve from toddlers into young teenagers and then into adults, that we begin to use “curiosity” as a fuel to enrich our intellect and experiences and shape our personalities. At the end of the day, we are curious creatures, and to be alive with our own uniqueness is just about the most curious thing there is! In short, we’re all curious because we are different, and, for peaceful coexistence, it wouldn’t hurt to focus on our similarities rather than our differences . If we were all the same in the literal sense of the word, our life would have no meaning, and, most importantly, we would lack this curiosity that is integral to humankind. A woman can look equally pretty with or without a bindi, and a man can be equally handsome with or without a moustache. We see what we choose to see, and that is nothing but the reflection of our consciousness, which is, after all, our greatest power @richie_reveal @wardha_ahamed @_pratikshanair_ @nittigoenka @virkenraina

3,205 Likes, 36 Comments – Arjun Kamath (@arjunkamath87) on Instagram: “We’re all like snowflakes. We may seem similar from a distance, but if we look more closely, we’re…”

Talking to Arjun, I was thinking about how, both as an individual and collectively as a society, we need to become more open minded, and especially with regard to art. It is a creative outlet, a medium through which people express their ideas and thoughts – doesn’t criticising and questioning artists speak more about our mental blocks?

The below shared Instagram post reads – “We have a deeply curious nature—you, me, all of us. If you’re a curious person, shouldn’t you also be curious about curiosity itself? Yes, most certainly. The funny thing is, more often than not, we’re curious about the minor tittle-tattle in our lives. For example, our curiosity can have us doing unproductive things, like inquiring about people we may never meet or even researching places we may never visit. However, at times curiosity is useful and can help us stay connected with our inner core, our roots. If used as a guiding light, it can pave the way for us to embrace our origin, customs and traditions in a new and better way.

For instance, most married Indian women apply the sindoor to their forehead. While some of us think it’s necessary, others would rather let their actions speak instead of painting their forehead. Fair enough; it’s an individual choice, and we must respect that. However, the question remains: why do it at all? Historians have traced the origin of the Indian sindoor back to the Harappan civilization, where it was applied along the partition of a woman’s hair and was a symbol of her being married. Hence, unless driven by curiosity, in 2018 we’d never be unable to understand the value of the sindoor. Therefore, curiosity is like a double-edged sword that can be informative and, at times, an unnecessary burden, depending on how curious we are.”

If reading this tells you that the artist is trying to take a sexist route, then well, you really need to think again, and perhaps take a good look within, too. We see what we want to see, as they say! But really, is it all about just finding things to criticize, as we see the thread of negative comments trailing this post! How difficult can it be to understand that It is okay if someone’s thoughts don’t match with the way you perceive things – it doesn’t always have to be about right and wrong, does it? And if you are with me on this, you’d agree that it instead opens a way to learn new things and understand others’ perspectives; precisely what art is all about.

What’s that red thing on your head? . We have a deeply curious nature-you, me, all of us. If you’re a curious person, shouldn’t you also be curious about curiosity itself? Yes, most certainly. The funny thing is, more often than not, we’re curious about the minor tittle-tattle in our lives. For example, our curiosity can have us doing unproductive things, like inquiring about people we may never meet or even researching places we may never visit. However, at times curiosity is useful and can help us stay connected with our inner core, our roots. If used as a guiding light, it can pave the way for us to embrace our origin, customs and traditions in a new and better way . For instance, most married Indian women apply the sindoor to their forehead. While some of us think it’s necessary, others would rather let their actions speak instead of painting their forehead. Fair enough; it’s an individual choice, and we must respect that. However, the question remains: why do it at all? Historians have traced the origin of the Indian sindoor back to the Harappan civilization, where it was applied along the partition of a woman’s hair and was a symbol of her being married. Hence, unless driven by curiosity, in 2018 we’d never be unable to understand the value of the sindoor. Therefore, curiosity is like a double-edged sword that can be informative and, at times, an unnecessary burden . The roots of this innate curiosity can be linked to a trait of the human species called neoteny, which means the “retention of juvenile characteristics”. For example, children really want to understand cause and effect early on-why things happen and how. As we grow older, we tend to retain some or most of this inbuilt curiosity. In addition, kids have a tendency to organically grasp the fact that every effect is related to some cause. As a species, we want to understand this dynamic early, because this, in turn, helps us prepare for a better tomorrow . So, even today, for a married Hindu woman, the sindoor signifies her desire for her husband’s long life. Sindoor or no sindoor, let curiosity thrive, so you can embrace the knowledge and intent if not the effect.

1,715 Likes, 30 Comments – Arjun Kamath (@arjunkamath87) on Instagram: “What’s that red thing on your head? . We have a deeply curious nature-you, me, all of us. If…”

So to finally bring the point home, and if we have turned to the same page – that’s exactly what the LGBTQ community, too, hopes to receive from the society – acceptance, involvement, and peace. Period.

Cover Photo: Styled by Wardha Ahamed

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