Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Widow, Glasses, Mosque Courtyard, Zakat Foundation of India, Old Delhi, India, 2008

Like many women in her widowed situation, she has been left to defend for herself and for her children. Instead of being looked after by her community, she belongs to the majority receiving nothing from the State and lacking a pension.

In many instances, life after the death of the husband is a life waiting for death itself. So many women are married when quite young to men much older than them. As a result, the death of their husbands leaves them as young women with children and without a security net. The stories are endless, the humiliation eternal.

Depending on position and caste, some of these women are forced to shave their heads, others refrain from wearing jewelry or from presenting their beauty to the world. They are to remain invisible for the rest of their lives, almost as a means to relieve Society from its conscience. With over 40,000,000 widows in existence, this leaves a void difficult to ignore.

One can see them on the streets, going about their day trying to form a life for themselves and their children. While the news portrays advances in their State's well-being, they tend to the homes of others for just enough to eat and little else. This is a most difficult existence and one made even more extreme by the social norms of the day.

Some will say that India has changed, that such practices have disappeared. It is my place only to describe the images created by me, the lives of the people represented within. For them, little has improved in their lives. The humiliation of presenting themselves in front of complete strangers for a sack full of rice is glaringly apparent. While making their portraits serves to support the foundation helping them, the difficulty in the portraiture could never be avoided.

Here are women that are in this position, standing in front of a stranger to have their picture made. I am a witness to their humiliation and yet another source of humiliation. It is the rape victim being forced to make pictures of her bruises, both external and internal.

The photograph in the end will hopefully tell her story without taking anything away from her.

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