ghar aur kaagaz: Home and Document
Transnational trends in documentary photography have recently taken a “domestic turn”, focusing on everyday scenes and objects in home spaces. This newfound attention to domestic objects on the one hand continues an aesthetic preoccupation from the 1990s with commodity culture, shifting critiques of the commodity fetish to an appreciation of the ontological status of everyday objects. Yet, new works also signal that home spaces are no longer hidden from the gaze of surveillance – especially from documentary technologies that reveal our most intimate lives to human voyeurism and digital algorithms. In this photo project, entitled ‘ghar aur kaagaz’ – Hindi for ‘Home and Document’ (or more literally, ‘Home and Paper’), we mimic documentary photography’s use of mundane and everyday “object tableaus”. As in the work of Indian documentary photographers Gauri Gill, and Tejal Shah, daily objects come to life as they stand for themselves, affectively charged. However, our images tend to short-circuit this material coherence. Superimposed over the photos is an overpowering discursive form – text from legal domestic violence cases.
The project is a deliberate attempt to combine visualizations of domestic space with meta-level descriptions of domestic space offered by legal writing. It therefore performs the critique of surveillance presumably within current documentary photography – that intimate spaces are open-ended – open to voyeuristic eyes, affects, and sometimes to dangerous interpretations. However, rather than stopping at the “openness” of the image, we show how absurd and melodramatic legal text, in performing a discursive reading – enters back into the frame, creating a moment in which genres, spaces, and objects – become unintelligible and momentarily collapse.
The photos are a series of pictures taken by the artists of domestic spaces in New Delhi. The textual matter has been culled from legal documentation from the anthropologist’s (Megha Sehdev’s) case studies of domestic violence litigation in the Delhi district courts.
Megha Sehdev is a PhD candidate in the Department of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. She is currently on fieldwork in New Delhi, where she is following domestic violence cases as they travel through NGOs, courtrooms, and domestic spaces.
Saransh Sugandh is a journalist and a filmmaker who currently works with The Energy and Resources Institute (TERI) in New Delhi. His work, both fiction and non-fiction have so far been on subjects linked to biodiversity, livelihoods, migration and climate change.He has a special interest in animation and research on non-formal education, gender and visual media. His film, The Flight has won the CMS Vatavaran Best Animation (2014) and was nominated and screened at other film festivals.