Two Inadequate Voices


2IV is a platform for image-makers to recount and reflect textually on their stories of being out in the world whilst photographing.

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Arko Datto

PIK-NIK, like many of my other projects, is a study of the landscape and environment and consequently, of the interactions and place of man amidst these spaces.

My search for a good picnic once took me to Chandipore, a popular ‘spot’ in the eastern Indian district of Odisha. Chandipore beach is a unique place where the sea recedes by around 5 kilometres twice every day during low tide.

This particular day turned out to be a disappointment, picnickally and photographically speaking. While I was preparing to head back, I heard a commotion in the distance and out of curiosity ventured to see what the ruckus was about.

I gathered that two men had followed a lady into the far reaches of the beach at low tide and had apparently harassed her. The motley crowd could somewhat see from afar what was happening out on the sea-bed. They waited patiently for the men to return and had meted out some form of mob justice upon their return.

In the photograph I made, the accused are pleading to be released before the police arrive while the mob continued to surround them after beating them up. They were taking videos on their mobile phones, thereby providing a glimpse into the manufacture of the multitude of low-res poor-image videos floating around on the Internet of similar mob driven violent situations increasingly found in crumbling democracies like India.

Systemic violence against women is a major problem in India, further exacerbated in contemporary times by the omnipresence of politically mandated toxic masculinity and institutional apathy.

Picnic settings in India are most often male-dominated or gender-segregated and seemingly tranquil uneventful settings routinely explode into violence, as is to be found in this image.

Arko Datto was born in India and studied physics and mathematics in Paris before shifting his focus to photography and studying in Denmark. Today he lives and works in Kolkata, the capital of the Indian state of West Bengal. His work has been exhibited extensively and featured in Time Magazine, National Geographic and Newsweek. Datto has also curated exhibitions and has been associated with the Kochi Biennale and OBSCURA Festival of Photography..