Its association with the country turning 150 this year, BNP Paribas decided to put together a compilation of what they thought marks the most important change in the country - empowered women.
Commissioning six photographers from the international photographic cooperative, Magnum Photos, and tying up with the publishing house, Zubaan, which focuses on women's issues, the initiative finally created the photo-exhibition, Women Changing India.
After travelling across Europe from May last year till January this year, Women changing India began its Indian tour, starting with Hyderabad.
Displaying photographer Raghu Rai's contribution, titled 'The Heart of India', the display includes pictures of some the biggest women game-changers in India - achievers like Ela Bhatt, founder of Self-Employed Women's Association of India, Laila Tyabji, chairperson and co-founder of Dastakar society for crafts and craft-makers, Tamil politician-activist-writer Sivakami, Swati Piramal of Piramal Healthcare, Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw, chairman and managing director of Biocon and ICICI's chief executive officer Chanda Kochhar.
Besides text contributions from prolific writers like Tarun Tejpal, Annie Zaidi, Mukul Kesavan, Amita Baviskar, Namrata Joshi and Mitali Saran, the photographs have a short explanatory side-text that tell the story of the women and the extraordinary circumstances they created for themselves.
Leaves of change
Women Changing India has also been compiled into a coffee table book that encompasses the entire exhibition shot by photographers Alessandra Sanguinetti, Alex Webb, Patrick Zachmann, Olivia Arthur, Martine Franck and Raghu Rai. As you flip through the pages you will see women occupy the unconventional space of taxi drivers and security personnel, learning martial arts for self defence. You will see them behind the scenes on film sets, calling the shots and setting up the props. There are women from Bhuj who have managed to make a livelihood out of the colourful embroidery that adorns their garments and now their life, and women in Tamil Nadu who find their voice against the government.
Voices tell a story
Speaking at the launch of the exhibition, Padmashree awardee, Begum Bilkees Latif said, “While we do celebrate these women and what they have come to stand for, I believe the true heroines of today are the unspoken women in the villages who toil day-in and day-out. One might ask if there really has been a change. In some sense, yes. They are more forthcoming and willing to break the barriers that dictates a women to sit at home. But we need more and more of them. The change has barely begun.”
Other photographs that were put up, captured the daily wage earning women, who against the odds, have risen to the occasion and in some instances, given credibility to some of the illustrated women.
Also present at the do was Urvashi Butalia, the founder of Zubaan, who was instrumental in the making of Women Changing India. Coordinating with the photographers, she helped decide their portfolios and the subjects of the photographs. Explaining the process, she said, “The whole exhibition actually has three versions, depending on the budget and the space it took to send them around. This is more economic version here.”
Being hosted at the Kalakriti Art Gallery, the display is on till March 23.