[Psychologies] ‘I give women a space without men in my images’

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Diba Siddiqi
Diba Siddiqi, 47, Photographer Photo: Shiva

How did you get into photography?
I bought my first camera, a simple Kodak instant, when I was very young, working in the US. I always had a fascination for seeing film rolls develop into photographs. I am an imageoriented person, always keen on people and their stories. My parents gifted me a Nikon in 1986 and I never looked back.

What about the countryside appeals to you?
I spent five years in a desert in Rajasthan, from 1989 to 1994. My friend Sanjoy Ghosh was working in Rajasthan where he started the Urmul Trust in 1986 in Lunkaransar. He asked me to take photographs of the people he wanted to write about. Sanjoy later moved to Assam, where he was abducted by the ULFA and we never heard from him after that. I have lived in interior regions, travelled to Uttarakhand and have photographed spaces that resonate with me. These rural settings give me an opportunity to communicate and narrate stories of marginalisation.

Who are the subjects for your photography?
I have worked in the midst of women and children in rural areas, where they have had no chance to better their lives. I try to construct comfortable spaces for these women where the presence of men would not make them feel insecure. This is why men are largely not a part of my images.

How important is it to interact with your subject?
I minimalise conversation but I observe, and definitely take people’s permission while clicking them. I don’t know my subjects personally, I chance upon them. During this process, familiarity develops and they stop hesitating in front of the camera.

How do you select your locations?
I don’t have a fixed preference of space. However, in my upcoming exhibition, Qasbah, I’ve gone back to places I started from — the neighbourhood of Munirka, my cousin’s place in Bhopal, and Ahmedabad. My locations narrate a tale of connectedness between people and the space they inhabit, a sense of belonging and a concern as to what might happen if, say, the slum-dwellers are displaced.

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