One Photographer’s Portraits Of Acid Attack Survivors Capture 'Their Journey From Darkness To Light'

"They deserve love and acceptance just as we all do."

Acid attack survivors can sometimes be discriminated against, ostracized, or treated unfairly, despite them being victims. Photographer Niraj Gera is helping to stop the discrimination with his Sacred Transformations portrait series.



Courtesy of Niraj Gera
Courtesy of Niraj Gera

The New Delhi-based photographer usually specializes in street photography, but he was inspired to work on the series after meeting with the Chhanv Foundation — an organization that offers a safe space for acid attack survivors — back in 2014. 

He told A Plus via email that from there, he met acid attack survivors at a protest march. "I happened to meet them in one of the protest marches held at Delhi, India," he explained. "I was quite inspired by their bravery. I spent a lot of time with them discussing their stories, their emotional journey, their lows and highs of life, etc."

When it came time to photograph them, he elaborated that he also had a connection with his subjects. "We shared some really valuable and memorable moments together, on as well as off the shoot. We cried together, we laughed together, and we eventually ended up forming a familial bond. Shoots are more like a family get together for us and all of us had a lot of fun shooting."

The resulting "Sacred Transformations" portrait series seeks to put an end to the barriers acid attack survivors face and to portray their journeys.

Courtesy of Niraj Gera
Courtesy of Niraj Gera

The Sacred Transformations photo series features 42 different images which portray "the transformation from darkness to light, misery to empowerment, and from negativity to positivity," according to Gera. When they're viewed in this order, they echo the journeys of the acid attack survivors and the emotions they often experience. 

The powerful images include one survivor looking at an old photo of herself and another image one a woman smiling beneath her hand. Other images use photography effects to created layered compositions of the women. 

The women featured in the series include: Ritu, a woman attacked by a relative for not accepting his proposal; Rupa, a designer; Sonia, who works as a beautician; Laxmi, the face of an acid attack campaign, plus Geeta and Neetu, a mother and daughter who were attacked by Geeta's husband.

Courtesy of Niraj Gera
Courtesy of Niraj Gera

Gera writes that he hopes the series helps to make people have a greater understanding of acid survivors and that they're more accepting of them. 

"The series is an attempt to reflect on this transformation of the survivors, and at the same time to sensitize society towards them. For they deserve much more than stigmatization and shunning. They deserve love, acceptance, and [being embraced] just as we all do."

A press release for the event states, "[Sacred Transformation] is dedicated to salute the heroic efforts and the determination with which [acid attack survivors] strive at transforming their lives for the better, against all odds. The series is a glance through some of the major emotional stages of their lives. From being devastated to becoming self-assured and from wreckage to happiness. The series shows a transformation in them – A Sacred Transformation."

Courtesy of Niraj Gera
Courtesy of Niraj Gera


Acid attack survivors are being featured in more and more campaigns to help stop the sale of acid and to help break down barriers. One acid attack survivor, Reshma Bano, produced a makeup tutorial to bring awareness to the cause, and she recently made headlines for walking in New York Fashion Week. And in honor of Women's History Month, a fashion show in Bangladesh featured acid attack survivors as the models.

All of these events are very important considering it is still very easy to buy concentrated acid in many parts of the world. Furthermore, Make Love Not Scars, an organization that seeks to end the sale of acid while providing a safe space for survivors, reports that there are approximately 1,000 acid attacks every year. 

The Sacred Transformations series is continuing the mission by showcasing the photos online and in galleries in New Deli. One exhibition is currently on display and there are two more upcoming events.

Courtesy of Niraj Gera
Courtesy of Niraj Gera

(H/T: Popsugar)

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