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Photo Essays

Sankar Sarkar | Facing One’s Own

Portrait of my mother, Kabita Sarkar.

The on going self commissioned project started in 2000 at the place where my mother and I stay. The location is Sethbagan in Kolkata, India. People call the area as a ‘red light’ district.
The picture reflects the dialogue with my mother through my camera. Camera is a tool for me in opening up a dialogue with my mother. My mother and I used to belong at different poles. She was trafficked to Sethbagan from Malkangiri in the state of Orissa where I was born. She had to become a sex worker.

In search of my mother I came to Kolkata with my grandmother. Initially it was a stage of alienation for both of us, my mother, Kavita and myself. Photography, in fact, has united us thus I call it as a dialogue through camera.

My photography journey started in 2000 through a project “Empowering Sex Workers’ Children through Photography” supported by UNICEF.
I remember the very first day when the facilitator visited our area and sitting on the floor meeting with the then small kids asked me “whom do you love in your family”.

She was getting ready to go for the job in the garment factory.

I was shy and nervous in replying to his question. I took some time and finally hesitantly responded that I love my mother. The second question was “why”.

This time I didn’t have any hesitation to state that ‘I miss her’. He handed over me a small compact analogue camera and asked me to photograph my mother, family and the surroundings revolving around her. He started teaching us how to compose a picture and so on so forth.

I have seen some photographers coming from different parts of the country as well from abroad taking pictures in the so-called ‘red light’ areas. The mainstream society and the outsiders call our areas red light but as an insider I never dub our localities in that term.

Likewise, as an insider it was really challenging job to work in the locality where I live and particularly taking photographs of my mother was a tremendous difficult task. The challenging because it’s a sort of ‘facing one’s own’. The interpersonal relationship with my mother till date is complicated. It has an emotional aspect as well as an institutional aspect. So, I tried to capture through my images the interpersonal relationship with my mother.

The way we are forced to live. It’s a common scenario in ‘our’ areas.
A self porttarit with my mother an intimate moment in my life.
My mother Kabita Sarkar along with my uncle and neighbours.
The dingy lane at Sethbagan a red light area in Kolkata,India.A neighbour in the front and my mother was standing at the backdrop.
My mother with her friends in front of our house.
The way the women folks gossip in a red light area, a common scenario.
A neighbour but still is a practicing sex worker.
My mother Kavita Sarkar who is no more a sex worker.
My uncle and my mother the way they share their lives.
The dingy lane at Sethbagan a red light area in Kolkata, India. A neighbour sitting at the right and my mother was standing at the left.
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      1. Mr. Sankar,
        My name is barathithambi, from Chennai, Tamilnadu. Working as a chief reporter in leading Tamil weekly magazine ‘Ananda Vikatan’. Regarding your interview I want to speak with you. Can I get your mail id or mobile number? Thank you so much..!

  1. Sankar, Thanks for sharing your story and your very important insight. I wish you very best in life.

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