With an ever-evolving photographic style, Uzma Mohsin’s rich and textured work, Love & Other Hurts, seeks to breathe new life into the personal histories of Punjabi women in the Black Country.
What emerges in her work is a complex picture of life in diaspora communities and amongst family members in India, that speaks of courage, resilience, bonds of love and friendship but correspondingly of hardship, loneliness, abandonment and depression.
How did you begin to think about tackling the ReImagine commission?
When I first arrived in Wolverhampton, I was reading Sathnam Sanghera’s ‘The Boy with the Topknot’. It felt strangely wonderful to be reading about the place I was a stranger to… Literature was the starting point for me besides the research I did.
I also read two other biographies – ‘Not Our Daughter, The true Story of a Daughter-in-law’ by Kalbir Bains and Meri Kahani (My Story) by Gurmail Singh Bhamra, who are both based in the Midlands. I have met and interviewed both the authors and have interpreted their voices in my work.
Can you tell me about your process and do you have any rules that you follow?
The process for me usually begins with building a good understanding of the subject – researching, reading, walking, observing, conversations – all contribute to that. Then comes the part of articulating what one has understood. Often chance encounters and serendipity helps. Going with the flow is what I follow.
What was it that most appealed to you about this particular project?
I am very much interested in “idea of home” in the imagination of individuals and society at large. The interest in this subject is closely connected to my own life where I have moved often from one place to another. What are the costs and consequences of displacement… that is definitely of interest to me.
Do you have a favourite photograph that you’ve produced for this project and if so and why?
For me, the exercise of giving cameras to women and reshooting on it based on their interviews or reshooting on the material from Apna Heritage Archive has been my favourite part of the project. Playing with chance and serendipity, blurring the lines between author and subject, geography and time in the actual image making process was very exciting.
I am sure that you met lots of inspirational women – was there anyone whose stories stand out that you can share?
I have met some wonderful women thanks to this project… and have also come across some very hard-hitting accounts of struggle. On the surface, the women maybe appear to be ordinary working-class women but their resilience is truly inspirational. Also, I am grateful for the warmth and openness shown by many of the women who shared their stories with me.
What was the most interesting, surprising or exciting thing you found out about your time in the UK (related to the project or not)?
During my stay, I met many interesting people but what came as a pleasant surprise is the multi-culturalism in the UK, I was pleasantly surprised. I have travelled in Europe before… but it is much more vibrant here.
How did you first get into photography?
I started shooting in school. My mother had gifted me a hotshot camera, which I loved using for taking pictures of friends and family. But my real interest in photography started when I was studying design at National Institute of Design in Ahmedabad.
What inspires you to keep going and how do you keep yourself motivated?
‘If you are lonely when you’re alone, you are in bad company.’ This quote of Jean-Paul Sartre always makes me smile. Discovering and learning new things both about the world and myself is what excites me. Reading and walking also always help.
GIRL GAZE: JOURNEYS THROUGH THE PUNJAB & THE BLACK COUNTRY, UK is a new photography project which launches this March in Chandigarh. About women, by women, the project explores the unique connection between women from the Punjab and the Black Country (Wolverhampton, Walsall and Sandwell).
The project, curated by Iona Ferguson, brings together newly-commissioned work by: Jocelyn Allen (UK), Jennifer Pattison (UK), Andrea Fernandes (India) and Uzma Mohsin (India) and is a collaboration with Creative Black Country, Multistory, Delhi Photo Festival and the Nazar Foundation. The project is funded by The British Council and Arts Council England.
Punjab Lalit Kala Akademi, Chandigarh, India , 10-18th March.
Apeejay College of Fine Arts, Jalandhar, 23rd-27th March.