Women in Film & Photography 2023 Exhibition
Jottings of an Unloved | BRINDHA ANANTHARAMAN

After not seeing or speaking to my abusive parents for over a decade, I got a call saying my father was terminally ill. I made the choice to visit them, but had to endure mental torment afterwards for allowing myself to go back to the hell that was my parents’ house. The dingy and dimly lit old house, with smells and scenes I thought I had forgotten for good…not one bit had changed, not even the threatening air surrounding the people there. One can divorce a loveless partner, but what about children who grow up in loveless homes?

While some people carry fond memories of their growing up years, mine are those of torment: I was fed the remains of dinner near the kitchen drain only after the rest of the family had finished; I was publicly humiliated frequently; I was accused by my stepmother of having many imaginary boyfriends; I was often jolted from my sleep to witness blood oozing down her and my father’s faces. My parents chased each other with knives on the street where we lived, and I was always ashamed to walk down it. I was robbed of an innocent childhood just because I was a female, as opposed to my stepbrother.

I grew up insecure, confused, unloved, and still carry the burden of their hatred. I had hoped there would be some redemption of sorts, but not one bit had changed. After escaping the house for the second time, I suddenly woke up one night feeling the weight of that world at the center of my chest. My repressed past started to play havoc with my present, opening a floodgate to a whirlwind of emotions that I did not know how to cope with.

In the days after, all I did was traverse the depths of my mind. I was still conscious of happenings around me, but perceived them through my own emotional filters. I think I might have taken pictures whenever I visited a new and unknown landmark in my mind. Unknowingly, I created a map of the bewildering personal journey within myself. The photos are cohesive not by genre, but in character, and by source, presenting my deeper emotions. These are not just images – they are more like markers and jottings forming an extensive map of my mind. That’s perhaps why I could never locate my entirety as a person in any of them; they’re a reflection of the space my mind was at that very moment. They are all me, just very different bits and fragments that I never knew I contained.

It felt cathartic to capture these inner experiences and moments, and they formed a personal means to communicate with myself. Seeing some shade of my emotions through these images gave me a kind of peace. Animals have also always reflected my state of mind because they sort of become human-like characters in my pictures. I now understand that I will never be rid of my past or the emotions that come with it, but it is ok to acknowledge this. It is ok to be vulnerable and damaged.

I often think about how life would be like had I been raised in a healthy atmosphere, with the kind of love, confidence, head-start, opportunities, and relationships I should have gotten. But here I am regardless, still enduring, living, and thriving in my own beautiful way.

About Brindha Anantharaman
Brindha Anantharaman (b. 1985) is an independent photographer from India who is currently living in St. Louis, Missouri. With over ten years of image-making experience, she works with a multitude of storytelling approaches including documentary, conceptual, constructed photography and audio-visuals. Her work tends to focus on personal narratives, as well as stories on gender issues, mental health, and the environment. Brindha’s works have been exhibited on Angkor Photo Fest’s Social Media, at Xposure International Photography Festival, Miami Street Photography Festival, and printed in Phmuseum’s Photobook, amongst others.

For the rest of our Women in Film and Photography 2023 programme, visit here.