There are countless deities in Hindu religion that are female; Kali controls creation, life and death and is a female; the consort of Shiva, Parvati, is deeply venerated. Ironically, the role of women in this still highly patriarchical society is such that the abortion of female fetuses is troubling, and this among the more educated classes. But stereotypes and sound bites do not capture the nuanced position of women. In an effort to let our assumptions be challenged by facts lived on the ground, photographer Stephen P. Huyler traveled throughout India to capture the many incarnations of female strength and creative endeavor in India, where women are contending with a country in a serious paradigm shift from third world to major first world slot. Without pandering to the empty fiction of the “noble primitive" or "Eastern transcendence," the photos are surprising in their colorful vibrancy, in the diversity of the lives and reactions to hardship and hope. Huyler is able to chronicle what seem to be spontaneous shots of experience authentically unfolding: a dignified, aged matriarch giggles like a school girl; women gather in colorful saris in what looks like that universal phenomenon of a good ol’ girls-only gripe session. Often images of India come to us as drab and downtrodden. By contrast, these are photos highlighting the deep blues, bright magentas, rich patterns and exuberant energy that are part of the life and culture of even the most besieged of Indian women. They are shown living lives that acknowledge obstacles and retain as sense of joy in spite of them.
Published courtesy of ArtScene ©2009