Photographed by Dinesh Sahoo.
Homegrown: Why self-portraits in particular as opposed to other approaches?
Dinesh Sahoo: My introduction to photography was for very personal reasons. I was lonely and didn’t really have too many people to talk to. That’s when I found solace in photography and started taking self-portraits. This series is very close to me and it’s my raw emotions that I wanted to depict through the self-portraits.
Phylactère: The way I work and create requires people ready to let go of their ego and knowledge, and especially the idea that they have to stick to a role. I am not looking for perfection in my shots when I photograph, or in my poses when I model. I am looking for honesty. Sometimes it is not perfect, but this perfection creates a tension that (I hope) brings the viewer back to this discomfort everyone experiences in life. Human beings always try to fix and make things perfect, we always tend to avoid certain sensations. But life a constant search of balance, like a rope walker. The perfect balance doesn’t exist. This moment of creation, doing self-portraits, not knowing where we are going but still having the clear sensation that we are following an invisible way leading us somewhere, that is what I was after.
Homegrown: Considering the fact that you shot in India, what are your views on India’s approach towards nudity?
Dinesh Sahoo: I created a separate Instagram account just for this series. My colleagues, friends and relatives follow me. But a while back when I posted a nude self-portrait, it became uncomfortable for the people viewing it and me too. I was mocked. So, the new account is only for strangers. They expect nothing from you, there is no judgement. But this needs to change. Why is nudity a bad thing? Nudity is not just scandalous, it is beautiful. It’s sad that a nude photographer’s reputation in this country is extremely damaged.
Phylactère: I have done this self-portrait exercise a hundred times over the years, but it was the first time I was experiencing it in India. The theme was certainly different as I was aware of the cultural baggage and prejudices that my nude body was conveying. Although, Indian culture is very conservative about nudity even when it exists in an art space, what hit me during this trip was all the similarities with the West. Contrary to what India thinks, nudity is extremely misunderstood in the west, especially in North America. In many ways, it is not different at all. It took me many trips to India to become aware of all the misunderstandings lying between our two cultures.
Homegrown: What was the process that led up to the shoot like?
Dinesh Sahoo: It was all very spontaneous. It was just before evening time and the lighting was gorgeous. I asked Phylactere to just be herself, I wanted to photograph her body movements and expressions naked. We didn’t talk much during the shoot but it was so instinctive and intense and we just followed the course. Even the props used in the shoot weren’t pre-arranged. We just happened to find them at the studio and they worked perfectly with our vision. The glass panel became a transparent purda (veil) that reveals everything that is concealed and the tree was the common thread that connects all human kind.
Phylactère: The series that came to life was not set up in advance, we used what was available on set and started answering to the environment, creating a story with the props, bodies, movement, colours, textures and light. It was like a acting or dance improvisation. Because I have a bit more experience than Danny, I proposed some directions, how to use the elements in the frame and which mood and body gesture to bring into the pose, the intention to lead the exploration. Danny was extremely creative and ready to follow my instructions, as well as adding his own insight.