A notion of recovery


Niha Masih

Photo: Niha Masih

What is the context of your photographs?
My photographs aren’t simply about conflict zones; they are also a record of what has been done later. I have attempted to explore the notion of ‘recovery’. Many stories would crop up in my travels, so I have tried to explore and amalgamate different places. Displacement is completely different everywhere, but it is not very disconnected. My idea was to put together something that connected these places.

Share with us the stories behind the pictures.
One of the pictures I shot was of former LTTE cadre women at a vocational centre run by the Sri Lankan army. Though the situation was kind of a charade to show us how successful the rehabilitation was, the photograph managed to capture a certain poignancy. The girls were sitting in front of a backdrop of Jesus with his hands raised, so it’s a juxtaposition of many elements which integrates and tells their story. The image tries to demonstrate how people are trying to move on from the past. One woman is even smiling, but that doesn’t mean she is happy.

Another picture was shot in post-revolution Cairo. A dictatorship had just been brought down by people who had taken to the streets. There was a need to recover from what had happened in Egypt. Post-revolution, there was a need to recover from what had happened and encapsulate what they had managed to do. I shot a graffiti in front of a cultural centre in Cairo which captures the essence of the revolution.

In Assam, after the riots, there was much destruction. We tried to go to the villages and see the extent of damage. While many of the photos that I shot there were about destruction, there was one photo more moving than others because it was of a school mark sheet. The photo reminds us of the child – would he come back, would he be able to go back to school?

Another conflict situation, more subtle, was about the Kathats – a syncretic community who practice rituals of both Hinduism and Islam. There is historical context – they were Hindus who converted to Islam, and converted back to Hinduism.

A boy in Kashmir was killed by CRPF. He was returning during a curfew day when he got shot. We asked his family to show a picture and his family opened a trunk to take out a photo. It was really strange to see that the family had locked him away in a trunk. Is it easier or difficult to lock away memories?

So there are essentially a couple of threads that I tried to explore. We first think of the people, how they recover, how difficult is for them to ‘move on’, but the other level of looking at recovery is also the ‘spaces’, like a ransacked house, that have undergone conflict. 


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