Take a look at the amazing and candid pictures of acid attack survivors in a one-of-its-kind photo shoot with Rahul Saharan. Watch the survivors revealing their true beauty and their heartbreaking stories.
What comes to your mind when you think of a fashion shoot? Glamorous models, high heels, designer clothes and all that glitters, right? But this fashion shoot was slightly different. It featured Rupa, a young fashion designer, an enthusiastic girl and an acid attack survivor.
When Rahul Saharan, a photographer and film maker met her, he came up with a revolutionary idea of capturing the beauty of the acid attack survivors in a way that’s never been done before.
And the results were breathtaking.
Ask Rahul what made him think of this and he says, “When I met Rupa through Chhaon, an NGO that works with rehabilitation of acid attack survivors, she told me that she is a fashion designer. So I thought to do a photo shoot to display her designs so that we could sell them later on. But as we were discussing the idea, I thought of asking the acid attack survivors themselves to model for the shoot and that is how the whole thing came into the picture,” Saharan says.
He met four other acid attack survivors apart from Rupa and shot unique photos of them which have given them a new sense of identity and the hope for a better life.
Not only did the acid attack survivors came out in the open but they also displayed a rare confidence showing that there was nothing that can hold these beautiful souls back.
Four years back, Rupa’s stepmother poured acid on her as she was not willing to spend any money for her wedding. To make Rupa “incapable” of getting married, she not only damaged her body but also left scars in her heart that could never be healed. Rupas’s father too did not support her and she decided to abandon her family. She left her home and got rid of the last name. Today she has her own identity as Rupa, the fashion designer and a survivor.
“When I met Rupa, she was a different person. And not just Rupa, other survivors too faced similar issues. They never walked in public without covering their faces, they were shy and did not have any confidence. But now, they are changed personalities and are proud of themselves,” he says.
Saharan’s past experience of working with the survivors came in handy when he approached the girls. They were not shy but very excited to be part of the shoot as this was something they had never thought could happen.
Laxmi was a 16-year-old school-going girl when a 30 year old guy approached her and expressed a romantic interest in her. She refused his offer and focused on her studies. Five months later, furious for being rejected, he poured acid on Laxmi’s face, changing her life forever.
“There is no point talking about the sad past. I made sure that I wanted to reflect happiness in my photo shoot and that is what I did. All the girls are smiling, laughing and being natural. I did not even guide them to do so, I just clicked the camera button and captured their candid moments,” he says.
When Saharan first started working on the project, he was very clear about the message he wanted to convey through his project. “There is much more to these girls than just being called ‘victims’ or ‘survivors’. They are young, little girls who have their entire future ahead of them,” he says.
Ritu was attacked by her own family member. Her cousin poured acid on her due to some property issue. While the property might not be that big a deal for the young girl, the incident destroyed the most important years of her life, leaving her damaged both physically and emotionally. Ritu is gradually recovering from the incident and is now getting comfortable in her skin.
“The girls love their pictures. They flaunt them in front of their friends and families. It is good to see them recovering so fast. They now don’t hesitate in talking and come across as very strong personalities,” he says.
Saharan, along with Chhaon, has been extensively working to rehabilitate the survivors. He is trying to erase the bad memories and recreate new, happier ones. He, along with the Chhaon team, has come up with an idea to shoot the ladies on the day they were attacked.
“For example, Ritu was wearing a red dress when she was attacked. So, after a year on the same date, we did a photo shoot of her wearing a red dress. Not only this, everyone wore a red dress that day. The idea is to help the girls get rid of bad memories and start a new life with fresh ones,” he says.
Sonam and Chanchal are two sisters. A few miscreants teased them on a regular basis and the sisters opposed their actions in order to discourage them. Too angry to take the insult, the guys poured acid on their face and hands while they were sleeping on the terrace.
Saharan has been working to make each of their dreams come true. He has planned to do a photo shoot based on the girls’ ambitions. “If someone wants to be a doctor, I will make them dress up as one and shoot them. Similarly with other dreams of the girls,” he says.
Apart from this, Saharan and Chhaon have been extensively providing counselling and other support to help the girls live a regular life. They have opened a restaurant in Agra for the survivors, where they have showcased the pictures from the photo shoot. The cafe-book shop also showcases Rupa’s designs.
“Sometimes it is difficult to get the desired results on time due to the medical conditions of the girls. Some of them are still undergoing treatment and surgeries. A few days back when I did a photoshoot in Ludhiana, the girls could not even change their clothes due to the injury. So we did a very natural shoot in their basic clothes. I try to keep the budget as low as possible,” he says.