Chennai photo exhibition to highlight the impact of climate change on women

From documentary filmmaker Vignesh’s series on Ennore
| Photo Credit: Special arrangement

Wherever he went with his camera, documentary filmmaker Vignesh A found that his lens sought out stories of women. This was not a conscious thing, rather, the result of the circumstances of the people he was documenting. The 30-year-old, who is part of Poovulagin Nanbargal, a Chennai-based collective working on socio-environmental issues, has been documenting matters related to people and land politics for the past six years.

Over 45 photos from his series on Neyveli and Ennore, with focus on the struggles of women, are set to be displayed at the exhibition

Over 45 photos from his series on Neyveli and Ennore, with focus on the struggles of women, are set to be displayed at the exhibition
| Photo Credit:
Vignesh A

Be it at Neyveli, a hotbed of protests due to standoffs between locals and the NLC India or at Chennai’s Ennore which was affected by an oil spill and gas leak in December last year, he says that it is women who are most affected. Over 45 photos from his series on Neyveli and Ennore, with focus on the struggles of women, are set to be displayed at an exhibition in the city. The event will also have photos shot by Thiyagu Gurusev, also with Poovulagin Nanbargal.

Vignesh was in Neyveli in March, July and August last year. “I did not know much about coal mining and how it was affecting people there before I joined Poovulagin Nanbargal,” he says. As he interacted with locals who were affected, he realised that a lot of them were women. “Women spend a lot of time in the town, taking care of agricultural land. Whereas men leave to other cities in search of work,” he points out. With no one to take care of the family, it all comes down to the woman of the household to keep her children afloat.

The exhibition will also feature Vignesh’s work at Ennore, where he documented the protests by fisherwomen

The exhibition will also feature Vignesh’s work at Ennore, where he documented the protests by fisherwomen
| Photo Credit:
Vignesh A

“My photos show climate change,” he says, speaking of a shot of women walking along a landscape that was once pristine. “It has been drastically altered due to coal mining, and the presence of the women in the frame is to indicate how they tend to suffer the most due to the issue.”

The exhibition will also feature Vignesh’s work at Ennore, where he documented the protests by fisherwomen from the region over the oil spill and gas leak in December 2023.

“I saw how they struggled to sell their fish,” he says. He was witness to anger and frustration, evident in a shot of two fisherwomen seated at their stall. “They told me how they couldn’t sell more than a kilogram a day due to the spill,” he says.

He also recalls photographing a little girl watching her father’s boat from a distance. “The water was black from the oil and she looked on for sometime, then walked away,” he says. “I later realised that her fisherman father had returned empty-handed and she felt bad for him. She had hoped he would bring back something.”

He speaks of the protests, chiefly women-led. Vignesh says, “I’ve heard about women-led protests, but to witness one was something else. It made me feel hopeful.”

The exhibition Climate Change is Anti-Women is at 4.30pm on March 8, at Anna Centenary Library. It will be inaugurated by filmmaker Vetrimaaran. There will be a special address by development economist Jayati Ghosh on the economic impacts of climate change on women. Prior registration is needed. To register, call 9094990900.

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