I failed at being one of the alpha jock boys— leather jackets, cool shades, obsessed with sports and video games. I was bullied and made fun of in school for being too feminine as I played the piano, sang in the choir, flaunted my long hair, and was a disaster at every sport. Luckily, I grew up to not cave into biases and conformities based on gender binaries. For years I struggled with body image issues. I began experimenting with nude self portraits since I was a school-going boy, before I even familiarised with the term. By being in a room by myself, I became my own director, and began to construct narratives that left the realms of an adolescent boy. The photographs I made also presented me with a lot of mockery from peers, college faculty, and my parents too. Many even call me a ‘nudist’. Simply given the vulnerability of the process, to compose myself in a constantly shifting environment, one results with a repository bigger than any commercial portfolio. Past few years I’ve been traveling. I find hotel rooms fascinating. They are all the same and yet so different from each other in how they make you feel. Traveling alone gives you the headspace to immerse into this “private” space that you occupy temporarily. The general idea of the room is pretty simple, but the finer details of how my mood and skin react to this space is influenced by location, weather, and most often the budget. I find a sense of calmness in these rooms as though I was in a gigantic box made up of mirrors: all these perceptions are actually my own and how I look at myself. Today, I am more aware of how my body looks, what makes me look commercially appealing and/or what makes me feel naturally comfortable, and how much I have changed physically and mentally through these rooms. Mirrors are often a projection of who we want to see ourself as, while these photographs facilitate how we truly are. As a viewer and a creator this process helped me a great deal to overcome my insecurities over the past decade. The medium of photography seldom presents itself with subtlety or ease. The camera, to me became the way I emote. However, the camera is also a tool that presents everything in a way where the story can be often missed out or severely distorted. And intimacy with such an art comes with layers of complexities, especially in documenting myself.
Photographer: Ankit Banerjee