The Odyssey of Choice
The project The Odyssey of Choice is a demonstration of the three-year Master's degree at the Beijing Film Academy. The accompanying thesis "Deconstructing Unconventional Domestic Spaces Occupied by Women in Urban Pakistan" aimed to historically study, analyze, demonstrate and elaborate the use of photography as a feminist endeavour. By challenging the ideals of "female beauty”, this project seeks to permute the objectification of women, their role in family life, and their perceptions of self.
For my research, I planned to analyze domestic spaces that do not conform to the South Asian family structure that is dependent on a male head of the family. To clarify, the project’s intended focus is on domestic spaces that oppose a patriarchal setup. Since lifestyles under this new setup are not hetero-normative and because the women who exist in these spaces end up defying existing social values, the society in large is prejudiced against them. In short, my desired result is to photograph women who oppose traditionally patriarchal domestic spaces.
The intentions behind this project are also personal in nature for I too, am one of these women. The advocacy for women’s freedom and their rights is a local and a global issue. Even in a rapidly developing country like China, unmarried women are called “剩女” (shēng nü; leftover woman), which only serves to highlight the relevance of this discussion in local as well as global contexts. Even though some women take a different road towards fulfilling their lives, such as their personal growth, the pursuit of professional fulfilment, family, love, etc. for them it involves a certain level of struggle and requires breaking through certain social constraints, including restrictions that are religious, political, economic, social, of class or ideological in nature.
During the course of my life I have met numerous such women in my surroundings and during the course of this project, I observed and photographed them. In the body of work The Odyssey of Choice, it was important for me to make this “pursuit” evident. From 20 January 2017 until 10 February 2018, I met with and interviewed several women who fall roughly in these categories. The selection process was informal. My reasons for directly meeting with these women before photographing them was to overcome their hesitance to partake in what can be seen as an exposé and agreement of participation was provided verbally.
"The Odyssey of Choice" deconstructs unconventional domestic spaces occupied by women in urban Pakistan, the unconventional ways in which they occupy public spaces, and the beautiful healing ways they affirm each other through behenchara (sisterhood) and intimacy.
It must be stressed that this project is longitudinal in nature and I will continue shooting more women in this particular context. The existing as well as future images will be recorded exclusively on 35mm and 120mm analogue film.