Mirrors and Shadows is the first in a broader series of projects that I have penned down. My current direction with my work is to produce projects that are politically and socially relevant. I envisioned this big series to be a collective mash-up of documentary, fine art and composite photographic artwork.
For the first installment, I had decided that the first theme to tackle would be sexual assault. I met up with Devika Panicker and spent some time having incredibly intimate and personal conversations with her.
I was new to this method of research. My preferred way of doing things would be to lock myself away for several weeks researching hundreds of articles, cases and other photo series that covered a similar theme. I decided that the best way to conduct this meeting was to not treat it like one and let Devika share whatever she wanted. Any questions from me was unnecessary; I just needed to create a storyboard with what she shared into a series of visual stories.
We had a total of two meetings over a period of two to three months and some texting in between. During our first meeting I noticed that there was never a moment where Devika displayed any form of discomfort, neither in speech, nor in mannerism, when sharing it all. I was studying everything from the way she sat; the way she spoke; the way she moved; and, down to even how she gobbled down more pizzas than someone three times her size (me) - she shared her past with me as though it was about any normal day in her life. It just did not make sense.
I had sent Devika a text message after our first meeting saying that I was finding it difficult to piece together a story in my head because there was just something missing. I knew I was not an investigative journalist so finding the perfect story for my work was not what I was after, I was instead looking for a story that had an effect. After some discussion over text, we decided to set up a second meeting.
We dug deeper this time, contrasting Devika’s past with her present. There was no grandeur story about her journey to self-recovery and I realised that the reason she did not flinch one bit while sharing her past experiences was because she did not want to present herself as a victim. As described by her, she lived in a space that was between the shadows of the past and her present endeavours. Finally, I had found my story.
Mirrors and Shadows is a visual story about the psyche of a survivor of sexual abuse who views herself to be living within a parallax - where on one side of the reflection she sees the shell of her past and on the other, she sees an entire life of good ahead of her.
You can watch how this series was created here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rYwtq5kDjXA&t=70s