INTERVIEW: Gayatri Ganju

Fòcas Programme Director Katherine Parhar interviews Fòcas India shortlisted artist Gayatri Ganju, a photographer based in Bangalore about her project Strictly Do Not Kiss Here. 

© Gayatri Ganju

F: Strictly Do Not Kiss Here looks at how young lovers in India find and use private and public spaces to express their affections, in the face of legal and social tradition. Your subjects must have come to trust you – and your camera – quite intimately. It must have been very delicate work to make?

G: I found that the more open and vulnerable I was with my story and why I was making these pictures, the more open and vulnerable my subjects were with sharing theirs. Most of the time though, I did feel like I was taking more than I was giving. So yes, it was a delicate balance to keep. I see my work as allowing me to become a guest in someone else’s world. Here there is an exchange of trust and acceptance. The experience is magical and humbling every time.
F: Does the project, for you, document the symptoms of social change in India, of changing expectations of life among the young?

G: The idea of the project was born from a conversation with a friend telling me how she’d been harassed by a policeman for sitting in a car with her boyfriend. This incident was a very familiar one. In varying doses, it’s an experience a lot of couples I know have had. The work became a response to this phenomenon. An ode to rebellion, young love and my 17 year old self. But then the personal is always political.

© Ganju Gayatri

F: You won a place on the Angkor Photo Workshop last year. It must have been quite a close and collaborative experience. How has it affected your practice, do you think?

G: The Angkor experience was hugely intense and expansive. It pushed me out of my comfort zone because I was working outside my context. It was the first time I played with blurring the lines between fact and fiction in the narrative which has opened up a lot of new doors with the way I approach my work now.

© Ganju Gayatri

Gayatri studied her Masters in Documentary Photography at the London College of Communication in 2013 and is now based in Bangalore. Her practice is driven by her need and ability to connect with subjects and share their personal stories. Gayatri’s work is drawn to the landscape, environment and the personal spaces and interactions people have with it.