Vidhyaa Chandramohan focuses on the Emirates in Xposure exhibition - GulfToday

Vidhyaa Chandramohan focuses on the Emirates in Xposure exhibition

Vidhyaa art 1

Vidhyaa Chandramohan’s work deals with Emirati subjects.

Muhammad Yusuf, Features Writer

Xposure International Photography Festival, besides being a photo festival, is also an imagery and educational platform that combines a range of photography events, including exhibitions, workshops, seminars, screenings, focus groups, competitions and photo walks. It also hosts a dedicated photographic and a video production trade show.

Its latest edition that takes place in Sharjah February 9 – 15 hosts Vidhyaa Chandramohan, an Abu Dhabi-based photojournalist. Chandramohan focuses her documentary work on women, cultural, social and environmental stories and issues in the United Arab Emirates. She has worked on a story titled Mothering from afar: Migrant Women in the UAE, which captures the challenges migrant workers encounter while working in a foreign land, far from their home and hearth.


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Other UAE-based projects include Women in Falconry and Living with Vitiligo, which captures an Emirati lady with vitiligo, who showcases the “beauty side” of her skin ailment. She uses art to celebrate her body and inspire others to overcome their fears. Chandramohan’s clients and publications include CNN Arabic, Thomson Reuters, The National, Vogue Arabia, Siemens (Germany), The Wired Middle East, Vogue Arabia, Khaleej Times, Zeke Magazine (Social Documentary), Vision Projects, F Stop Magazine and Emirates Falconry Club. She talks to Gulf Today

Can you define your oeuvre? You have a keen eye for social, environmental and cultural issues …

My objective as a documentary photographer is to try out new concepts and chronicle unseen stories from the UAE. If you look at my previous work, you’ll find that everything I’ve done has fresh concepts; and I’m certain and glad that the subjects I choose have not been told before in this region. As a photographer, I want to present captivating stories with a good impact on the community. I want to utilise my photography to send a strong message and address global issues, which will also function as a public awareness campaign.

Why do you focus on women? Do you feel many of their stories are untold?

Being a female photographer, I am able to work on women’s stories easily and intimately and women and girls feel comfortable working with me. Women in the United Arab Emirates seek new opportunities in every field. I’m thrilled to have been able to portray their fearlessness, how they seem to others, and their independence, in my photographs. Yes, there are many stories to be told about the United Arab Emirates — and they are not all about women.  In the coming days, I am particularly interested in documenting the UAE’s efforts to combat climate change, as the country is making significant efforts to conserve the environment for the benefit of future generations.

vidhya art 2  Vidhyaa Chandramohan is an Abu Dhabi based photojournalist.

The world of photography has become intensely competitive, with mobile and drone cameras. Comment.

Certainly, it’s a very competitive environment; yet each photographer will view the same topic from a unique perspective. As a photographer, you may thrive if you establish your own style and if the subjects you choose and the way you convey the story are distinctive.  Now, as you can see, everyone takes excellent images; nevertheless, if you want to stand out from the crowd, you must continue to do things that are distinct from the rest. Not only is there rivalry in this one industry, but there is competition in every field!

You have very high profile clients. Why do you think they engage you?

Perhaps they like the manner in which the stories are told …

You seem to have studied photography in the West. Does an Occidental template fit the Oriental world?

I have earned a Diploma in Documentary Photography from Danish Media and Journalism in collaboration with World Press Photo and Noor Images, in Amsterdam. Whether you are in the East or the West, telling stories is the same. Follow ethics, be honest while telling the narrative, respect the subject, and be aware of the regulations in a nation before documenting — which is the same guideline, no matter where you are.

What aspect/s of photography most satisfies you?

Every photography project has its own set of difficulties to overcome. Although shooting places and situations may change, there are certain elements that you should constantly strive to combine, in order to develop your own unique style.  For me, I am always on the lookout for natural light, and I mostly employ it in my photo essays.

What have been the challenges in your work?

Working on documentaries stories involves extensive research, connections and execution, not to mention the expenditure of resources, time, money, and commitment. Working on stories always has various challenges.

Have you worked in India? If so, how is the photo-ecology different or similar there and in the UAE?

No, I have not worked in India. However, since I am focusing my efforts on subjects relating to the United Arab Emirates, it is much easier for me to report from the UAE and return to a topic on a regular basis.

How does photography bring cultures together?

Photography, without a doubt, brings cultures together.  For example, since I have photographed falconry, specifically about women falconers in the United Arab Emirates, I have had a lot of positive comments and have been extensively published.  I have brought the culture of the United Arab Emirates to the global stage, and photography has assisted me in this endeavour. I want to shed some insight on the cultures of the United Arab Emirates by investigating the many various ways in which individuals choose to express themselves.

How will Xposure add value to your work? 

Since a comparable storyline is seldom shown in the Middle East, I will gain significant value from this year’s exhibition: it is a story about women’s strength, power, and courage, and it highlights how they are supported by a culture that values their independence.

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