Mumbai photographer Prarthna Singh’s first solo book is a walk down the alley called Shaheen Bagh

ByDavid M. Conte

May 21, 2022

Who is the perfect protester? We imagine raised fists, hurt faces, angry postures. We imagine ourselves climbing the barricades, braving the tear gas. If we follow this visual vocabulary, Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh (Every Evening Belongs to Shaheen Bagh) surprises us. With over 150 portraits of nonviolent protesters, the photobook gently challenges the imagery of contemporary resistance movements.

Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh is the first solo photobook by Mumbai-based photographer Prarthna Singh (she previously teamed up with the authors of Sar: the essence of Indian design in 2016). In December 2019, after Delhi police allegedly assaulted Jamia Millia Islamia University students who were protesting the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA)a protest sit-in led by Muslim women started in Shaheen Bagh. Under a tent, with hundreds of women and children each day, the peaceful protest lasted 100 days, until the pandemic hit.

Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh; By Prarthna Singh; 143 pages; 3,300 rupees

Singh joined the anti-CAA protest in January 2020, spending most of his time in the field. Known for her female-centric storytelling and portrait work, she draws on her specialty to create portraits in an on-site photo studio, cobbled together with whatever was available at Shaheen Bagh. The result is these portraits of women, looking directly at the lens or from afar, but always with a sense of pride. Posed and calm, the anonymous models indicate a confidence in the space, the purpose and the photographer.

Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh, nonviolent protesters, photobook, photos by Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh, review by Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh, Mumbai-based photographer Prarthna Singh, book review, eye 2022, sunday eye, indian express news Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh is Mumbai-based photographer Prarthna Singh’s first solo photobook (she previously teamed up with the authors of Sar: The Essence of Indian Design in 2016).

Our collective memory of Shaheen Bagh, as is often the case with resistance movements, belongs to the masses, as seen in prime-time news and press photographs. Indeed, mass resistance movements give rise to the most recognizable images in documented world history. Vulnerability and resilience merge in a defining moment – people standing against power and confrontation, whether it’s a man blocking a line of tanks or a girl giving a soldier a flower armed. Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh swaps the monumental for the intimate, asking us to reconsider what we mean by ‘iconic’. He isolates individuals from the sea of ​​faces, almost as if to say that the power of a movement does not lie in numbers but in the will of its people.

Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh, nonviolent protesters, photobook, photos by Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh, review by Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh, Mumbai-based photographer Prarthna Singh, book review, eye 2022, sunday eye, indian express news Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh takes the form of a diary or an album.

Har Shaam Shaheen Bagh takes the form of a diary or an album. It contains drawings, a painting by artist Sameer Kulavoor, whose company Bombay Duck Designs also designed the book, verses and a letter from one of the protesters, available in Urdu, English and Hindi. Some pages are deliberately uneven, reminiscent of the DIY side of the Shaheen Bagh tent. While the cost of the book makes it inaccessible to certain socio-economic groups, Singh shared copies with protesters. Part of the book sales are donated to Jeevan Stambh, an NGO working to rehabilitate victims of the Demolition of Jahangirpuri last month.

During the pandemic, Delhi police cleaned up the Shaheen Bagh site, repainted its graffiti and dismantled its art installations. In a country bent on erasing and rewriting its history, you could say that a photobook of a citizen protest is as good as an act of protest itself.