Land and Lens

Rural Women and Youth Photograph their Land and Lives

Conceptualised and coordinated by Sunita Rao and Batt Anderson, ‘Land and Lens’ seeks to enable rural women (from the Sirsi region) and youth from the Chamarajanagar belt to photograph and document their own lives, especially as that related to land and their surroundings. Using donated cameras and training of about 6 days, the women and youth have documented intricate details from their lives which are also commentaries on the state of their regions.

Until now four shows and exhibits have been held:
In Nagavalli, Chamarajanagar, Sirsi (Uttara Kannada district), Bengaluru, and at Mysuru.

For more details and to review the photographs, please see the website:


At a time when the rural has been placed into retrogression, and most of its own citizens consider it fit to leave, and the future is an unpredictable question – to represent the rural is an onerous responsibility. In taking cameras into their social and physical worlds, the rural women and youth of Sirsi and Chamarajanagar regions lend credence to the fact that everyday life in rural India is a mix of assured sociality and uncertain challenges. Every frame represents different fragments of rural life: the joy of periodic rituals, the solidarity of friendship, emptying homes, restless youth, depleted land, and the beauty of local biodiversity. A parade of humanity confronts us: children loved or uncared for; the silent presence of the elderly; hardworking peasants, restless youth, overburdened women; bored school children, ambitious politicians. Many seek relief and relaxation in the small acts 


of playing with pets, observing children or simply sitting. The rural as a space lends itself to these varied moods.

The photographers, both women and youth, have related to the camera not as a tool but as an extended eye; enabling them to offer interior portraits of their lives; their loved ones, their familiar habitats, their favourite spots. Each photo has enabled the photographers to raise.  questions about the objects and subjects in their photos: why are so many houses abandoned? Why in a drought-prone area have so many trees been cut? Why does a temple that is considered sacred have a polluted and filthy water tank? What is the state of our elderly? There is also appreciation for the taken-for-granted beauty of their surroundings; of the full-grown trees, the verdant paths, and the seasonal flowers. 

For the rural photographers, the camera became an extension of themselves— enabling them to step out of the confines of their homes, neighbourhoods, and villages to purview their immediate surroundings with new eyes to which they have an umbilical link. The photographs themselves are not so important as much as the act of taking photographs and being able to overcome their hesitation, diffidence and fear. As an act of assertion, taking photographs was to put oneself into the public sphere and to call attention to that which they may have taken for granted. At a time when selfies and ‘selfie-ness’ have become ubiquitous, and society is increasingly mediatised, these photographs enable the photographers to initiate conversations among themselves and with others.

A.R. Vasavi


Soil and Water

Twin and central components of agricultural worlds, the degradation of soil and the scarcity of water are matters of concern. In their varied textures and conditions, the state of the soil and water are indices of the state of the rural.

Land and Horizons

Beauty and bareness, at dawn and at dusk, in majestic isolation or in convivial togetherness— the textured details of the objects of the land reflect the moods and life of nature in the rural hinterland.

Family and Friends

Intense sociality between kith and kin, friends and neighbours, school mates and road mates form the social nerves of rural society. Among them there is laughter and anger, amusement, and forbearance, estrangement and reconciliation, companionship and caring. Above all, the family is the fount of belonging and friends are the best ‘time pass’.


A range of livelihoods mark the economic rhythm of rural life: tilling, cultivating, tailoring, selling, processing, tending, grazing, and overseeing. Each is an act of skill and knowledge that goes beyond the definition of work and employment.


Waste has an ubiquitous presence even in the rural hinterlands—indicating changing life-styles and the intrusion of consumerism. Its costs are pollution, ill-health, and threats to natural resources and organic ecologies.