LIFESTYLE

Photos Capture The Scrutiny And Harassment Young Women Face Just Being In Public

Bangalore-based student Priyanka Shah's series depicts how roaming city streets is an emotional battle.

15/02/2017 11:53 PM IST | Updated 17/02/2017 7:36 PM IST
Priyanka Shah

Bangalore-based student Priyanka Shah’s striking photo series “Perspectives” has captured the internet’s attention since the 19-year-old artist shared the project on Facebook earlier this week. The straight-forward and powerful images communicate the judgment, scrutiny and scorn young women in India face for wearing certain clothing in public.  

For the project, Shah photographed her friend Aishwarya in various public spaces around Bangalore in a comfortable and unassuming outfit ― shorts and a T-shirt. The most compelling aspect of the photos, however, is not Aishwarya herself but the harsh reaction of the bystanders in her midst.

“I have been living in Bangalore alone for a while and ... being a girl our clothes have always mattered so much,” Shah wrote in an email to The Huffington Post. “Whether we wear shorts or are fully clothed we are looked at in the most negative way possible. Whenever I told people, most of them didn’t take it too seriously.”

Priyanka Shah

”I really wanted to show people what kind of looks we got,” Shah continued, “how intimidating and horrifying they could be. How getting on the streets every day is like an emotional battle and how we have to think twice before wearing something we are most comfortable in.”

Shah captures with undeniable clarity how passersby ― both men and women ― stared at Aishwarya with unabashed contempt, to a degree that would make most anyone uncomfortable. The photos reveal the grave reality many young women in India live with: that simply existing in public yields uneasiness, scorn and sometimes abuse. 

While photographing, Shah hid herself behind trees or in bushes to ensure the bystanders’ reactions she captured were authentic and not a result of being on film. She described the shoot as one of the most intimidating experiences of her life.

Priyanka Shah

”People said things like, ‘Yeh kaise insaan hai, shee,’” Shah said, which translates roughly to “Yuck, what kind of people are they?” After spending 30 minutes in a flower market, Shah said she and her friend were forced to leave when “people got rude and rowdy and the situation could have gone out of hand.”

Since completing the project, Shah has received positive feedback from both men and women, who felt the series was both relatable and courageous. The photographer hopes her work illuminates the very real problems of misogyny, body shaming and street harassment, which continue to plague young women in many corners of the world.

As Shah said in a statement: “Through this project I wanted to show how brutal people’s judgements could be, how just one look could speak a thousand words. Specially with women.”

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  • Priyanka Shah
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