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Khushboo Sharma

IWB Blogger

These Portraits Of Trans Model Parineeta, Captured By Ajatshatru Singh, Have An Important Story To Tell

  • IWB Post
  •  June 11, 2019

You know how they say change is scary in the beginning, difficult in the middle, and beautiful at the end? Photographer Ajatshatru Singh has given a whole new meaning to the adage by capturing intimate portraits of trans model Parineeta in her transition phase.

A cinematographer now, Ajatshatru ventured into the world of photography as a documentary photographer, the essence of which has stayed with him throughout. Like he says, “Whenever I think of taking a picture, I always try to understand the story behind it and visualize that image.”

Every picture captured by him has a soul of its own and nothing justifies the statement better than his series with Parineeta. Go through the pictures, and you will find each and every element of the picture speaking for itself, but the model’s eyes trump it all. They tell a story, a story of change, of resolution, and eternal optimism.

Sharing how it all started, Ajatshatru says all of this, i.e. the series, has indeed been a very impromptu and organic process. He shares, “The first time when I met her, which was a couple of years back during the shooting of a film, she hadn’t even confided in me that she was contemplating the gender reassignment therapy.”

He adds, “I kind of lost touch with her after that. I contacted her again when I kind of wanted to click portraits of people I knew. It was then that I went to her house for the first time and found out about her.”

Transition . . . . . . . . . #somewheremagazine#ifyouleave #thinkverylittle#portbox#collectiveendeavor#awfulmagazine#mamiyarb67#filmisnotdead#shootfilmstaybroke#indianphotoconcept#portrait#analoguevibes#analoguepeople#photocinematica

86 Likes, 1 Comments – Ajatshatru Singh (@1jat) on Instagram: “Transition . . . . . . . . . #somewheremagazine#ifyouleave…”

 

It was during these meetings that Parineeta shared with him how she dealt with extreme confusion all this while. Ajatshatru explains, “For the longest time even she thought that she was gay and it was only recently that she figured out that she wanted to undergo the change therapy. She was quite excited about it because all this while she had lived her life thinking that she was in the wrong body and she always felt like something was missing and it was finally like finding that missing piece.”

The entire process has been a massive learning experience for the photographer. “Sure I am from places like Delhi and Mumbai where you are aware of things like these. However, you are aware but you are not involved and the thing is because I come from Varanasi, which is in UP, my upbringing and the people I have been brought up around have been very conservative,” Ajatshatru shares.

He adds,” Before coming in contact with Parineeta, I always assumed that gender is binary. However, it changed drastically once I met her and started talking to her. I realized that it wasn’t like she found out that she was a woman, she always knew that she was a woman. But because of societal conventions and prejudiced ideas, she didn’t know how to express it.”

The series entailed prolonged meetings with Parineeta and thus Ajatshatru got thoroughly acquainted with the transition process along with the model, an experience that gave him a lot of insight and was literally an eye opening exercise.

Transition . . . . . . . . . #somewheremagazine#ifyouleave #thinkverylittle#portbox#collectiveendeavor#awfulmagazine#mamiyarb67#filmisnotdead#shootfilmstaybroke#indianphotoconcept#portrait#analoguevibes#analoguepeople#photocinematica

94 Likes, 0 Comments – Ajatshatru Singh (@1jat) on Instagram: “Transition . . . . . . . . . #somewheremagazine#ifyouleave…”

 

He explains, “The medications are very very intense, leading to a lot of inconveniences like mood swings, body heat, etc. As I was in constant contact with her, even I had to face her mood swings and she would get really angry at me too sometimes for no reason. Understanding that part and navigating through that the situation has been quite an experience.”

He adds, “It’s one thing when someone tells you something and it is completely something else when she is next to you and have to see her going through this and you are trying to make her feel better. So this experience and all of these things have made me empathetic and now I can help and educate others as well. My mom and dad are so astonished by the change in me and they have now developed an understanding for the same.”

Ask him if the project has helped him evolve as a photographer and he says, “I hope so. I can’t say that for myself but yeah I hope I have evolved. The definitions of art for me has to do a lot with communication and I think that through this project I have indeed been able to communicate what I really wanted to. In that sense, compared to my earlier works, I have definitely evolved.”

Further speaking about the entire experience, he adds, “It was just like two friends talking. We did a lot of fun while cooking together, she’d teach me how to do it but I am terrible at it. Very quickly, all of it became very personal. I ended up sharing a lot of intimate details of my life and so did she.”

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102 Likes, 0 Comments – Ajatshatru Singh (@1jat) on Instagram: “Transition . . . . . . . . . #somewheremagazine#ifyouleave…”

 

This explains why he zeroed upon Parineeta’s home as the setting. He explains, “This project was very personal. I would have loved to take her out, I would have loved to take her to different sets, I had thought about it but I didn’t want to make it a big deal because though she had spoken about it and she was quite comfortable with the idea but you know how people gather when there is a shoot going on and we didn’t want that. My main interest was to make her comfortable. Majority of the pictures are taken at a time when she didn’t even realise. That’s what I wanted, I didn’t want it to be a fashion shoot, I didn’t wanted it to be planned, I wanted it to be something more organic. I wanted her to be in her element.”

Sharing her part of the story, Parineeta says, “Initially I was a little apprehensive but as I knew him I thought I might as well take a chance and get on board with the idea. So that’s how I said “Yes” and the project anyway helped me find a new comfort zone. The journey has definitely made me a stronger and more confident person. A year ago I wouldn’t have thought of doing something like this.”

Speaking of the emotional journey that she had to undertake along  with the transition, she says, “Of course, it can’t be denied that the medication takes a toll on your body. I had to go through my own set of challenges as I faced mood swings and all. But honestly, it wasn’t that difficult. That phase is over and it is much more easier now. I have a regular 9-5 job and it is a pretty normal life now.”

Parineeta feels that amidst a plethora of horror stories, it is important for others to read her story and know that it is not as difficult as it seems. Living in our societies, we are all conditioned in a way that by the time you actually find yourself and know who you really are, you have been made to think that anything that doesn’t abide by the societal conventions is wrong and something to be ashamed of.

Transition . . . . . . . . . #somewheremagazine#ifyouleave #thinkverylittle#portbox#collectiveendeavor#awfulmagazine#mamiyarb67#filmisnotdead#shootfilmstaybroke#indianphotoconcept#portrait#analoguevibes#analoguepeople#photocinematica

142 Likes, 2 Comments – Ajatshatru Singh (@1jat) on Instagram: “Transition . . . . . . . . . #somewheremagazine#ifyouleave…”

 

She says, “This is always there. I knew that I just didn’t fit into my body, I hated it, but by the time I realized what I exactly wanted, it had become really difficult for me to convey it to my family members.”

Being assigned male at birth in a orthodox Bengali family just made it all the more difficult for Parineeta. However, luckily for her, the fact that she came from a rather open-minded family worked in her favour.

She began with baby steps and confided to her sister first who took it really well and extended her support. While it took her parents a little while, they also eventually understood.

Now this is certainly not the kind of transition stories that you often come across. Parineeta shares, “This is the reason why I thought of documenting it. There needs to be an alternative narrative among all the heart wrenching stories which people should look up to.”

“I want everyone to understand that if you own up to your real self and have the conviction then everybody around you including your family will eventually understand it, even though it might take a while.”

Transition is an ongoing photo essay about Parineeta and her journey of Gender Reassignment. The essay is a series of portraits shot at her home which explores the journey and what it means to undergo the process . . . . . . . #somewheremagazine#ifyouleave #thinkverylittle#portbox#collectiveendeavor#awfulmagazine#mamiyarb67#filmisnotdead#shootfilmstaybroke#indianphotoconcept#portrait#analoguevibes#analoguepeople#photocinematica#viceindia

120 Likes, 6 Comments – Ajatshatru Singh (@1jat) on Instagram: “Transition is an ongoing photo essay about Parineeta and her journey of Gender Reassignment. The…”

 

She also feels that while there is a need to educate people about it all, there is no point of expecting any sort of help or special treatment from them. She says, “We don’t need anybody’s help. You have to work for yourself, right? Everyone goes through their own sets of struggles, my mom worked for the life she has, my dad fought for the life he has, and similarly I’d have to work for the life I want.”

It is probably owing to her unyielding optimism that things have started working just fine for Parineeta. She recently participated in the Color Positive Miss Queen 2019 competition. She not only got the chance to participate in the “woman’s category” but also won the competition. “I told the organisers that I want to be identified as a “woman” sans any prefixes and they agreed. I really think of this as big achievement,” she says.

Transition . . . . . . . . . #somewheremagazine#ifyouleave #thinkverylittle#portbox#collectiveendeavor#awfulmagazine#mamiyarb67#filmisnotdead#shootfilmstaybroke#indianphotoconcept#portrait#analoguevibes#analoguepeople#photocinematica

113 Likes, 2 Comments – Ajatshatru Singh (@1jat) on Instagram: “Transition . . . . . . . . . #somewheremagazine#ifyouleave…”

 

Photo Courtesy: Ajatshatru Singh

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