A picture might be worth a thousand words, but for these phenomenal photographers from the queer community, it is worth a million that have been left unspoken by generations of LGBTQIA+ artists in India. Every single time one of the photographers on this list takes a picture and captures a moment, they force time to stop and let their perspectives take up space in the international artist community online. In no particular order, here are today’s top trailblazer photographers:
@satarangi_panda: Dhaval Bavaliya is a photographer and Digital Marketer from Ahmedabad. Dhaval’s photos often capture motion in little and big moments to tell a story. Often finding muses in the natural world, he captures a lot of flora and fauna, though the striking colours of the rainbow are never away from his lens. From black and white photography to extremely detailed and nuanced shots, he has mastered it all. For Dhaval, however, photography is not just a profession and passion, it is a way of life. As he explained in reference to how he sees his art, “A window into the outside world that leads to my inner sanctum. I see my life as snippets, and hell yeah, what a splendid movie I am living in!”.
@shreyashetty.s: Shreya Shetty brings aboard a lot of her personal emotions and artistic experiences into everything she shoots, and her work reflects that. She has captured a the whole range of emotion on the spectrum. On the subject of her artistic process, Shreya confessed, “It’s important to my shooting process to understand and learn about the person in front of my camera, to know their stories, to do justice to their current authentic selves when they choose to trust me in an intimate act of being photographed by me. I value this process above all.”
@apurvaa_jadhav: Apurva Jadhav is a 24 year old Video-Photographist and Cinematographer who started taking pictures in 2012. Since then, they have worked with multiple musicians to capture melody in motion. From music videos to concert images, Apurva always makes sure that the musician’s essence comes through on film. Talking about their medium of expression, they explained, “I try to capture the essence of what I perceive at that momen t- be it a live performance or a music video – because I want other people to experience that feeling as well. Photography soothes me, it helps me relive the past or the moment that doesn’t exist anymore.”
@_boragraphy: Amlanjyoti Bora graduated from NIFT, New Delhi with a degree in Fashion Communication and has a Master’s of Design in Photography Design from NID Gandhinagar. Currently based in Delhi, he has been shooting commercially since 2018 for a variety of projects like publications, documentaries, fashion campaigns, and editorials. Rather than becoming an obstacle between himself and the person in the frame, Amlanjyoti believes that his camera helps them come closer. As he explained, “I can be my best when I am with my camera. It is my way of communicating. Clicking your photo is what helps me connect with you.”
@daintystrangerphotos: Raqeeb is a photographer and writer from Kolkata based in Delhi, India. His works attempt to provide an antithesis to mainstream masculinity by capturing it in all forms. He started his Instagram page to deal with his own body image issues, but slowly it became bigger than that. Currently, his works explore the idea of intimacy, sexuality and love. Explaining the need to stay authentic to the subject, he said, “I try to look at things as they are. I feel oftentimes when we photograph, the aesthetics come to the forefront and we try to whitewash the photographs in a way that seems appealing to everyone. For me, that does not matter. I try to document subjects as raw as possible, and very little editing goes into that process. I like to keep things real and unabashed. I don’t sugarcoat images to fit into the paradigms of what it means to be a photographer.”
@monishaatpd: A Mumbai-based LGBTQ+ activist and entrepreneur, Monisha Ajgaonkar is known for her stunning commercial and wedding photography. Founder of The Photo Diary, she found her way to freelancing for the Mid-day and Bombay Times. Slowly, she ventured into fashion photography, shot for Rolling Stone Magazine, and started her own company. Monisha has been using her skills and talents from early on to work on several projects that shed light on the challenges faced by the LGBTQ+ community in India. Apart from her photography, she has also made some short films that portray her fight for equality for the LGBTQ+ community. Her project, ‘L for Love’, won an award at the 2018 DMA Asia ECHO Awards. She previously collaborated with Mumbai’s very own Drag Queen, activist and artist Sushant Divgikr where they created a stunning coming-of-age photo series called “Blossom”. She is also the mind behind various projects such as, ‘Love: No Boundaries,’ ‘Unmasked’, and ‘L: Love Matters’.
@sanj_nanodkar: As someone who grew up in various places across the country, life was ever-changing for Sanjana. The only constants were the images that brought with them a familiarity and a semblance of home. For Sanjana, capturing an image has always meant pausing and editing out a moment from the many, many experiences we gather through life. She believes that a photographer imprints their experience into that one frame by observing people and places and absorbing the energies and the essence. Talking about the lessons that the life behind the lens teaches her, Sanjana explained, “It is my duty, as the one capturing that fleeting moment, to hold not just what’s seen, but all that’s unseen in order to discover myself and the world. My work as a visual artist is to bring the beauty and truth of a moment into the work and pass it on to the viewer.”
@keya_art: Keya Arati is a photographer and Graphic UI and UX designer. They have worked as a freelance events photographer with Dharavi Project and volunteered as a photography teacher at Awaaz-E-Niswaan in Mumbai. Their work includes the beautiful documentation of male and female Lavani Dancers for the documentary feature, ‘Natale Tumchyasathi,’ and the book, ‘Sangeet Baari’. In reference to their creative process Keya said, “Being a shy and introverted person, I add those qualities in my work- especially in candid photography. When I take any photograph, I look in my subjects’ eyes to connect with them, injecting my gentleness and feminist outlook to capture them in their essence.”