Photographer Lucky Malhotra’s ongoing campaign It’s Not Fair—a body of work built with captivating images that speak against the social stigma attached towards women who are dark-skinned, started in November last year is in its fifth edition already.
This anthology was triggered when Malhotra was accidentally caught discussing the topic of skin colour with his nine-year-old daughter, where she referred to her friend as ‘the one who is very fair’ when he could not recollect who her friend was. “This made me ask her, ‘do you like your complexion?’ And thankfully she said ‘yes’ but at the same time, I questioned myself whether I should have asked her that questions in the first place,” Malhotra recalls, with some self-doubt.
A few days later, he came across a post on Instagram where an individual described a similar situation. This prompted him to reach out to her. That’s how she became the first face of the #itsnotfair series.
“After talking to her I realised that no matter how successful a woman is; there is still some kind of strong opinion when it comes to how a woman looks in India. The biggest ones you see are the matrimonial ads, for instance, where a woman with fair skin is given such importance that it morphs into the most important quality she possesses, things like intelligence, grace, and creative, take a back seat, just because she is a woman?” Malhotra questions.
You have shot over five editions, what are the peculiar things you have noticed about women and the obsession with the skin while shooting this campaign? “Most of them feel that they are not prepared for this shoot, they think they don’t have the right outfits, I don’t think that the women I shot had any complex with regards to skin, usually it’s the society which puts that pressure on them by constantly making them conscious,” Malhotra quips. Adding “As of now I have tried to keep it simple and clean, but maybe in the future, I may go a step ahead and go bonkers with funky styling, but again style is individual and all this is too early to say. The second common thing is some may have the misconception that only a few colours suit them because that’s how they have been raised, I take it as a challenge to prove them wrong there, and it brings a smile on my face when they change their opinion about how they used to think earlier.”
Also, the most interesting conversation he has had while shooting was about the opinions of people and how they change once the shoot is out. “Some may feel jealous, and some get overwhelmed when they get to know their story and appreciate it as and they compliment this campaign and the lady who was part of it. On the contrary, some of their friends behave weirdly as jealousy creeps in and these friends, who used to like their pictures earlier, now behave as if they have not seen it. It’s so funny that we end up laughing at these,” he adds chuckling.
Further, his wife likes this campaign and she is supportive of what he has been doing. His daughters, however, are too young to understand this, but he hopes they feel proud when they understand where he will be taking this.
Interesting, he has chosen regular women from all walks of life for this series, and when we asked him why, he says that he doesn’t like anything that is easy. “Call it thrill or a kick that you could do something unconventional. Most fashion photographers are used to shooting only models as models know how to pose and have good body language. It needs a lot of patience to make a regular person look like a model and I think I am blessed with patience (in abundance) when it comes to photography and that’s why I chose to work with regular women as getting a great picture with a model is far more easier than a regular woman.”
In the end what makes him content is the fact that the one who he shot transforms into a more confident person and they are at ease compared to what they were when they approached him. It’s such a great feeling, he says.
According to you, how do you think we should rightly address this taboo subject? “I have been stressing that the change will happen only if the elder generation becomes more sensitive about this and accept the fact that beauty is not fairness. Men should come forward and set an example too. The media also plays an important role here, they should curb marriage proposal ads which say, “Wanted a fair-looking girl” and especially families who put up their daughters profile that reads “Fair, slim and traditional girl, yuck!”
Many who approach Malhotra still don’t understand the concept, but that’s okay he says, change doesn’t happen in a day!
Follow the series on his Instagram here.
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