On World Photography Day, I invited 18 photographers to share a photograph that depicts Hope: Janhavi Sharma
"I've always found hope in the surrender to wild things, and it's somehow just been enough. But I'm moving next month to another country; many miles away from home at a time when international travel could anyday be restricted; and when the pandemic has reached my neighbourhood, and could anytime come home. The decision was not easy, the consequent anxieties of this transition have been catching up to me. And for the first time, in a long time, my gardens haven't sufficed as distractions to my worries.
This is a portrait of one of my closest friends, Ashnah, who is moving with me, not to the same city - but nearby enough. And I've found hope these days, in our sisterhood and friendship, in knowing I'll always have a companion, a piece of home with me when I need one. It's given me the push I needed to be able to pursue my ambition, despite the uncertainties. :)"
Amidst all the chaos that surrounds us today, I usually find myself on the terrace in the evenings trying to get a hold of the silence that runs through the streets of the city. As I look up at the sky, I see the dark blue hues and the dark clouds taking over the sea that is the sky, I take a look at the other end and I see the sun as it's setting while it plays hide and seek with the clouds as it bids farewell to us by casting the sky with the hues of orange, yellow.
It gives me hope that all this chaos that we all are in right now will soon have an end. That all of this suffering must and will have an end. As everything that has a beginning has an end to it. It gives me hope that once all of this is over, we’ll have a new beginning to look forward to just like at the start of each day, we see the sun rise." -Madhav Sethi
Rifat Jahan and Javeed Ahmed
"We had an arranged marriage, we fell in love only later. I want to dedicate the song Chaudvin ka Chaand by Mohammed Rafi to her. It only reminds me of her."
"This story is about love and how music which helps them communicate their feelings. What I found most fascinating was their pure and innocent love for such a long time, which fills me with the hope of goodness in this world. Also, this photo reminds me to go back to my roots and how I started photography with that childlike innocence and the joy it gave me and try and preserve it." -Anish Sarai
This was photographed for and commissioned by Soup for the story 'Best Friends'.
“Love and hope wander into our lives through tails that wag. At a time when humanity eludes most humankind, I think dogs remind us of who we must be: infinitely kind, infinitely giving, with the faith to see the light in each other’s darkness.
There is a lot that you can tell about a place through its dogs. Dogs in Bombay are different from ones in Delhi, and those in Bangalore, from ones in Calcutta. Animals are mirrors—reflections of human behaviour—the mindset of a stray, shaped by the way we are towards it.
Maybe, just maybe, the dogs are the actual citizens of our cities and we are the strays.”
Women will lead us (Bilal Bagh, Feb 2020)
"I had a little portrait session with one of the farmer after a long day at the field. The project was based on regenerative cotton farming and fair wage for the farmers. After years and years of exploitation, they might now have a chance at consistent income and a better chemical free work environment."
"I tend to associate jasmine flowers with home. Since my childhood, our balcony in Bombay has been strewn with these delicate flowers, often twirling in leftover monsoon pools, or wafts of summer breeze. On a birthday trip to Pondicherry with my best friend, we serendipitously came across this gentle blossom, just as I was making a list of all the hopes, wishes, and desires I had for the new year. It felt like a response from the universe, a tiny reminder that I carry the warmth of home with me, no matter where I go.
Later that year, this photograph was used as the album art for a beautiful song titled Lonely heart by OAFF feat. Savera. Funnily enough, completing a dream I held onto for quite a while. "
"We sat in the backyard of a West London home, watching the light change over the course of the BBQ dying out. Music wafted in from the kitchen, but there was a familiar quiet - the kind when parties are winding down.
This photograph reminds me of a peaceful time - one that I am hoping for sooner rather than later. A time where we can sit on grass, without a worry too many and not have to plan the next day.”
"The last time I was making so many self portraits was in 2012 - my first year as a professional photographer. At the time I was working a mind-numbing job as an art recopier at an art gallery. The process of photographing myself was an antidote to my boredom and made me feel like I was reclaiming my individuality.
The biggest challenge facing me then was getting used to a drastic change in financial circumstances and adjusting to a new life. Making these solipsistic images was a part of that acceptance – the portraits themselves were meant to be a gateway to discovering what I really wanted to shoot. Experiments like these later gave me the confidence to quit that job and work independently. Around that time, I was also trying to extricate myself from a relationship with a toxic person and reinforcing my idea of self through these auto-portraits proved cathartic and gave me strength.
I can only surmise that photographers around the world, confronted with the pandemic, are feeling a collective anxiety and looking for ways to respond to the times. I see so many of us trying to assert our identity through self-portraits at a time when we are facing this existential threat. While acknowledging our helplessness, we are leaving a small mark of defiance."
"A print of this photograph hangs above my desk as a reminder to always stay grounded come hell or high water."
our days are numbered
try to make room for a smile
“This is Ansu Mami. She loves to read the news. Every day by the bench next to the door and you can see her leaf through the pages trying to learn as much as she can. She lives in a small town in the south of Gujarat, where she is the sole caretaker of her ailing husband. In a life, spent focusing on chores and tending to her husband, reading the newspaper is not ‘just’ reading the newspaper. It is her ‘me’ time.
I managed to capture this little slice of life while on a visit to the town last year.”
“It was March 2015 and I had just finished a course with Magnum Photos in Goa, a course that I thought would help me further my photography career. Instead the course invalidated my perspective about the power of the image as I found more joy in building relationships with the people I was photographing; their hopes and joys, their wildest dreams and darkest sorrows through the magic of conversation and storytelling. Trying to turn these experiences into a mere photo essay didn't sit well with me and I abandoned photography as a career shortly after that.
During this intense period of unlearning and introspection, I was sat on the beach on a rainy day watching a pack of dogs as they chased, jumped and supported each other. To photograph them intuitively, I had to learn how 'community dogs' perform community and that was hope enough to carry on.”
“I never thought that a little human entering my life could fill me with so much hope and joy. Even on the worst of days, calling her up and singing Baby Shark do do do do do or dancing to The Beatles together makes me forget about whatever was bothering me. She makes me want to do better, to be the coolest and most inspiring aunt a niece could want. 🌸
This photograph captures a sense of innocence and hope I hope to hold onto forever.”
“Somehow thinking about being on the ghats of Banaras on a cold morning has been quite a solace in these turbulent times.”
“I once read a little line in a book that I never finished. It spoke about how even in the most dire situations - our mind can be free. During the rollercoaster that is/was the lockdown, this thought often brought me hope.
This was one morning after the cyclone that passed us by in Bombay without causing much damage. The rain lilies danced all morning, making this bleak, desolate time a little better.”
“The photograph is one of my favourites from my first photobook called "dear melancholy". Despite the title, the entire body of work is actually very positive which I think is represented well in this particular image. It was shot earlier this year on my first solo trip and I truly felt like I came back fundamentally changed as a human being. For me, the photograph signifies a complete and wholehearted acceptance of the self - despite all of its perceived flaws and shortcomings - something that I am greatly struggling with at the moment. But looking at this picture and knowing that I have been there before allows me to be hopeful that I am capable of being that person again.”
“Mohammed Alam belongs to the largely ostracised Rohingyan community of Myanmar. He and his family had little choice but to flee home and move towards a place that might be safer for them, when their community became the targets of ethnic cleansing. They made the journey over to India on land, passing through Bangladesh, eventually making it to Jammu. Mohammed runs a tea stall here now.
What does it take to leave everything you know and love behind?
And what does it take to rebuild a life from nothing?
Survival is only one measure of a movement as massive as this. Perhaps it is a catalyst. But only the deepest sense of hope can keep you pushing forward into the unknown. An inherent belief that somewhere, someplace there is a better world and future for the ones we love. I imagine this hope is part of what drives almost every person seeking refuge from violence.
With the NRC and CAA in place, my country is once more about to steal this sense of hope from people who have already done the imaginable in search of a better life. The questions we're left with now are somewhat less answerable...
How deep do our reservoirs of hope go?
Can they be replenished in the better worlds we seek?
And what happens to us when they finally run dry?”
“Hope is the sun fighting for it's space, in a sky slowly being taken over by the dark, mysterious moon. Often I've found myself in a corner, the only option being to surrender and to be led by the quiet voice in my head, telling me to keep on keeping on. The last rays of the sun echo the promise of that voice. We might be in darkness for now, but the sun will rise again. Trust in the power of a new morning.”