ARRANGED MARRIAGE, BOLLYWOOD-STYLE LOVE, AND A TEAM OF VIGILANTES WHO PROTECT STAR-CROSSED LOVERS.
This series focusses on honour-based violence in India, and on one organisation fighting this violence: the Love Commandos. This voluntary group originally formed to protect couples celebrating Valentine’s Day from attack by extremists, but now provides assistance to couples in love who face opposition from their families due to caste or religion. They provide protection, enable these young pairs to be together, and are even occasionally called to rescue individuals at risk. With eight shelters in New Delhi and one in Mumbai, they have 50,000 volunteers in their fold, many of whom were helped by the Commandos to begin with.
When straightforward registration of reality is combined with fictional and staged elements, an interesting friction occurs, which sometimes has the power of revealing a deeper truth than what the medium is generally capable of conveying. It happens rarely, but when it does, it reminds me of why photography keeps me in its grasp.
I photographed numerous couples residing in the main shelter of the organisation, including Sanjay and Aarti, the most celebrated of the rescued couples, who are now happily settled and have a newborn child. This particular young couple started their forbidden relationship by secretly talking to each other across their rooftops. This inspired me to stage an image based on this event with volunteers I met in Bombay. Later, back in Brussels, when two photographs from the series were published side by side in a newspaper article, my partner Victoria noticed that the fictional couple in the staged photograph on the Bombay rooftops are wearing exactly the same clothes as a couple photographed earlier in the Love Commandos shelter. It ties the staged photograph to its narrative source in an uncanny manner, almost as if the medium subtly exposes its own form of consciousness.
Photographs: Max Pinckers