Gavin Evans, an internationally-acclaimed photographer from Europe, is interested in challenging conventions according to his Facebook profile. And that’s exactly what he has been doing with the many photography projects he has taken up over the years – one of the most interesting ones being project Touch. Gavin started this project in 2005, working on a collection of portraits where he offers one of his hands to his subjects and tells them to place it however they want in the shot. They can do whatever they want to with his hand, but it should come in the picture. He then takes the picture with the other hand. He started this project to study personal space and boundaries. According to him, when placing his hand in the frame, the subjects illustrate their ‘cultural and psychological limits of connectedness.’
“If [the subjects] take my hand and put it to them, then they’re showing me that they’re very comfortable with someone in their space. If they just hold my hand and hang it in the air, then that gives me a very clear idea of their measurement of personal space – it stops there,” he says in this blog.
When Gavin came to India with his project, it was the people belonging to the Dalit community and Other Backward Classes that he wanted to shoot with, because he knew about the practice of untouchability prevalent in many parts of the country.
“Throughout the making of touch the responses of individuals within groups and societies have revealed significant collective traits and commonalities. Since the inception of touch it had been my ambition to include and extend my hand to India’s Shudra caste and Dalits- the untouchables. This action, as I came to discover, was politically and socially charged as the caste system still prevails and continues to be used to discriminate and enforce social hierarchy within India,” he writes.
He named that part of the project The Touchable, in which 700 men, women and children participated from slums in Delhi and villages in Rajasthan.
‘The results and experience were revealing and profoundly touching – no one is untouchable,’ is what he had to say at the end of it.