Thursday, 27 December 2007

Shiho Fukada: The Aravanis

Image © Copyright Shiho Fukada-All Rights Reserved

Shiho Fukada is a New York-based freelance photojournalist, and her work has been published in numerous publications including The New York Times, The Chicago Tribune Magazine, Time, Stern, Le Monde, among others. Her work has also been featured in PDN and Digital Photo Pro Magazine. In 2007 she was named one of the emerging photographers in Digital Photo Pro Magazine.

I am amazed at the quality and depth of her photojournalism as showcased on her website. The three main bodies of work that I found exceptionally powerful are "50 Years Later", "The Aravanis" and "Life In A Brothel". The latter is a three-part essay featuring the stories of sex workers in Bangladeshi brothels. There's a also a multimedia Soundslide essay which I recommend you watch.

The former photo essay is about the Aravanis; these are essentially transgenders and eunuchs, sometimes called hijras. The Aravanis trace their lineage to the Mahabharata. According to the ancient legend, Lord Krishna took a female form to marry Prince Aravan for a single night before Aravan was sacrificed.

Every year this event is celebrated as the Koovagam festival, when thousands of Aravanis dress as brides and marry the deity, Lord Aravan, and consummate the marriage through sex work. The next day they enact the process of widowhood, don white saris and return to their villages, only to shed wearing white after a month of mourning.

This is powerful and compelling photojournalism, and I have spent much time exploring Ms Kukada's website with its various photo galleries and essays. I expect you'll probably do the same.

Shiho Fukuda