From the Comfort Zone to the Conflict Zone

Text and pix by Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai

In Sri Lanka, photography is a field strongly dominated by men. Few women have taken up photography or photojournalism as their career. Engaging in this special craft requires women practitioners to often justify their reasons for choosing a challenging and male-centric career.

“Women in Politics”by Dushiyanthini Kanagasbapathipillai

There had been constant judgment and doubting of both the required skills and endurance – an essential if serious about pursuing photography as a career path.

It begins generally with disbelieving questions, “Can you actually handle a professional camera?”, “Do you know how to use the lens?”, “Can you travel alone at night?”, “Can you travel to the North and the East of Sri Lanka to cover the conflict or post- conflict stories (without being accompanied by a male colleague)?”, “Can you cover protests and riots (without the protection of the male species)?, “Can you leave the comfort zone and live in a conflict zone?”, “Can you climb a tree or a steep building to take shots?”, “Can you live without your high healed-shoes?”, “Can you carry a big backpack full of heavy camera equipment?” and “Can you continue with your profession even after marriage?”.

These are but a few sample questions often asked, and there is plenty more.

But there is a way to answer these questions – without words. Answers to some of these stereotypical questions were displayed as framed photographs at a recently concluded exhibition in Colombo.

Women and Media Collective (WMC) has been supporting these talented women for the past five years and the exhibition was part of a series of events organized to celebrate the International Women’s Day.

Another set of questions were answered by the number of entries received. From 130 exceptionally good photographs, 44 were selected for the purpose of this exhibition. Not a handful but 26 women photographers, professionals and amateurs, participated in the Women’s Photography Exhibition 2013 held at Lionel Wendt Art Gallery in Colombo on 16-17 March. It demonstrated visually, that the camera was safe and useful in the bangled hands.

Annual event to celebrate the International Women’s Day

Dushiyanthini Kanagasabapathipillai, participant of Women’s Photography Exhibitions lighting the oil lamp

Space is shared by Sri Lankan women photographers

Viewers at the Women’s Photography Exhibition

Viewer going through the exhibition catalogue

It’s a rare space women share under one roof

courtesy: PassionParade