Shooting back

• Women in Red: Portraits of the Red Brigade Lucknow is at the Pakenham Street Art Space in Fremantle until August 30.

LEEDERVILLE photographer Jessica Eva is helping to empower Indian women who have been sexually assaulted.

For her latest exhibition Woman in Red, Eva travelled to Lucknow in India to photograph young women – some still in school – who had been sexually assaulted and in many cases gang-raped.

She says she felt compelled to meet them after watching an ABC news piece on the Red Brigade Lucknow, a grassroots organisation in India that helps victims of sexual assault.

“I just had this unshakeable thought that you need to go there, you need to meet these women,” Eva told the Voice.

Eva says she was driven by “a desire to represent these women as powerful, empowered figures.”

“[My art is] political, not just aesthetic. It’s about telling stories and creating change for the better”.

Some of the girls being photographed had travelled an hour on the bus straight after school.

Because of the language barrier, Eva used mostly gestures to communicate with “one word here or there they’d understand”.

“I was very conscious of avoiding the colonial gaze; a way of taking photographs that disempowers the subject. I was very conscious of not taking photographs in this way, making sure they got to choose how they look and how they stand, crouching down, keeping the camera at eye level”.

The RBL was formed by Usha Vishwakarma, after the then 18-year-old was attacked by a co-worker and used self defence to escape.

The RBL campaigns against street violence, gang rape and assault, and tells children who to contact if they’re abused.

The organisation also provides safe houses to women who have been attacked, and those kicked out by their family because they have been raped and brought “shame” on their family.

The RBL is lobbying the Indian government for compensation for victims of sexual assault, and more female police and CCTV cameras on the streets.

Women in Red: Portraits of the Red Brigade Lucknow is on at the Pakenham Street Art Space in Fremantle until August 30.

by ALEX MURFETT

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