Jaisingh Nageswaran

16th October 2020
6pm IST

The webinar will be held on the online platform Zoom. To register for the webinar please click on the link below:

The artist will be sharing three bodies of his on-going work with us to talk about his journey with photography and how the pandemic has helped him take ownership of his thoughts and voice within his medium.


I spent my childhood in rural Tamil Nadu – and I have very fond memories of those days, spent swimming in the river, catching fish, playing in the open fields with my friends, herding cows, sleeping under the sky and the stars. I can still remember the smell of the fields before rain, the smell of the river, the smell of the cattle, the smell of fresh milk and the smell of simple food.
During my college days, when I went to see life by the Narmada River having heard so much about the controversies surrounding the construction of the dam, I became nostalgic by the same rural sights and smells of my childhood and as i look back at these photographs i feel a similar nostalgia for this land that is no more.My photographs from Narmada connect me to my days of being a village boy, living a simple life. I have grown up and life is not simple anymore.

ABOUT AKKA- ongoing 

Once every year, the lodges in the sleepy town of Villupuram (Tamil Nadu) come to life – thousands of transgenders, cross-dressers, lovers, customers and the curious onlookers descend here to live life to the fullest during this five day festival named Koovagam. Every one of them slowly unshackle themselves to reveal their real identity. The transformation from a man to a woman is a process accentuated by threading their eyebrows; wearing earrings and bangles; applying lipstick; wearing fancy wigs and undergarments. When they step in front of the mirror – a rare and fleeting sense of fulfilment shines through that person in the mirror. 

I have been going to this festival for the last 10 years. For the first few years, I was merely a curious and shy onlooker, attempting to speak and photograph the people I connected with. Everytime I come back home after the festival, I feel a secret sense of joy that immediately gets brushed aside. In these years of going to the festival, I seem to have slowly peeled many conditioned layers of being just a man. As I now stand in front of the mirror, I see fluidity, I realise I am more than just a man. I see in myself a woman too.

These images are a record of my experience with the people who have come out to embrace fluidity and tenderness. It is as much a record of my own journey in realising the many genders residing within.


To escape the caste system I thought I would need to travel as far from my village as I could. I lived in many cities. During the lockdown, forced to be home, I finally see the beauty of the place I have grown up and seek the strength of my roots in my family. My family is my fishbowl and my miracle.

About the Photographer :

Jaisingh was born dyslexic to working-class parents in Madurai, Tamil Nadu. Never considered normal by his own society, he was taught by his beloved grandmother at home, which was a sanctuary. Through folklore and bedtime stories she taught him another way of living life. Finally, when even she couldn’t cope with his learning disabilities, his father was advised by his extended family to stop his education and send him out for agricultural activities and cattle herding. However, with the encouragement of his immediate family, he ended up doing his Masters in Mass Communication. This was an important juncture in his life since it sparked his interest in documenting socially-vulnerable communities as well as issues of rural life. To earn a living, Jaisingh works as a photographer doing stills for films. The rest of the time, he is a son, grandson, uncle and artist. He is a member of two artist collectives: 13Jara and Guldasta.

We will be joined by Poorani Cruz to help translate for the artist. Poorani is currently teaching at the Department of Visual Communication, Government Arts College in Trichy, Tamil Nadu. She is a photography enthusiast. Jaisingh and Poorani completed their Post Graduate Communication Studies together in Madurai.

The Guftgu Series have been facilitated and supported by Pro-Helvetia New Delhi’s Now On Grant for the year 2020.

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