View through a different lens

View through a different lens

There is a kind of freedom possible, devoid of identity and gender. In the photo-exhibition, ‘Beauty and the Beholder’, photographer K Venkatesh has managed to successfully capture that very freedom possessed by Chennai-based model Olga B Aaron, a trans woman, who has been at the heart of the inclusion-exclusion debate for a while.

All the photographs are shot amidst the ruins of the Bidar Fort, which age back to the golden era in Deccan history. “I’m a social worker with an interest in modelling. Five to six years ago, Venkatesh had asked me to shoot. But back then, I was too young and shy to agree. He contacted me again and said that there’s a fort, which he wanted to highlight and protect. Seeing that this would increase social awareness of both the transgender community and a heritage site, I immediately agreed,” recalls Olga, the model, who feels that Bidar has been a victim of neglect too.

With colourful saris or leopard prints, blue lipstick or sunglasses, she notes that she is not trying to make a fashion statement but a more social one. “I don’t want people to accept the appearance of it but the concept. I want to make them understand and accept us. It’s not to give a wrong message to them,” she adds.

Her previous experiences working with Venkatesh came through clearly in many of the photographs, where a candid shot captured her putting on make-up or looking indifferently into the lens. “It was nice working with him because it was just the two of us; no helper was hired. I chose all my costumes, make-up and accessories, he explained what he wanted to capture and I just did whatever he said,” she adds.

This was the photographer’s fifth project related to transgender issues, with a calendar, a book and two exhibitions done before this.

“As a commercial photographer, I would do fine. But I’m basically a press photographer and my intention is to build on whatever issue I take up. For this exhibition, I shot all 46 photographs in seven hours,” shares Venkatesh.

“It was great working with Olga because she grasped the subject very fast. I paid only for her room rent; she came from Chennai to Hyderabad to Bidar on her own and went back once we were done,” he concludes.The exhibition is being held at Karnataka Chitrakala Parishat till November 30.

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