Photographer Avani Rai recently received flak on social media for seemingly capitalising on the ongoing lockdown in Kashmir. A Twitter user took to social media to post a screenshot of an email sent by online publication Brown Paperbag. In the email, Brown Paperbag invites the receiver to an event where Avani Rai’s photos will be exhibited.
The email reads,
“We’re exhibiting photographer Avani Rai’s gorgeous photographs of Kashmir under lockdown at our One Amazing Thing pop up store at at Kala Ghoda, where you can also get your hands on what is quite possibly the best chocolate tart in the city.”
The Twitter user then pointed out that the language of the email was problematic and offensive to the many people currently suffering in Kashmir. The user wrote, “What hell is this ? “Gorgeous photos of Kashmir under lockdown” — this is not the first time Avani Rai ‘s work has been deemed problematic or her engagement with local artists.But this is just violence. Come see beautiful images violence in Kashmir , then grab chocolates and wine”.
The tweet met with a lot of criticism as many users expressed their disappointment. While some asked, “Who in their right mind would attend something like this?”, others called it “kashmir lockdown porn”. Some other users also called it “exploitative” and “sadistic”.
In light of this, Rai took to Twitter to issue an official apology, speaking both for herself as well as Brown Paperbag. In her tweet, she claimed that it was a “misunderstanding” and that she was not consulted about the email.
The official apology by Brown Paperbag says that the brunch plan and Avani Rai’s photos were not simultaneous events – something the email seemed to suggest. It also further clarified that Rai had been asked for her photographs for display at the exhibition. Rai chose 5 photos and sent it to the organiser, who then put them up.
The apology further reads:
“We regret this deeply. Please note that Avani’s images were not for sale, nor do we consider their subject matter frivolous”.
Calling the email “insensitive and thoughtless” Rai wrote, “As my timeline shows, I’m committed to documenting the atrocities in Kashmir. I’m sorry this incident has caused pain. It was a misunderstanding. I was never consulted about yesterday’s email, and should have been more aware. The framing was insensitive and thoughtless. My work on Kashmir has never been for sale. I just want more people to see with their own eyes what is happening there. I apologise on behalf of @bpbmumbai and myself.”
Avani Rai is known for her work on Kashmir. In October, she found herself in the middle of another controversy for a shoot she did for Raw Mango. The photoshoot was criticised as being insensitive to the people of Kashmir, given the current political situation in the state.